Police: Check Area’s Safety Before Moving

Dagny Salas

By Dagny SalasThe Daily Northwestern

Weinberg junior Azmina Lakhani used to believe living on campus was the most secure option. But she said she thought again after several intruders were reported in Allison Hall last year.

“I always thought that living in the dorms was safer (because) I guess there’s a lot of people around in the dorm.” Lakhani said. “It depends on where you live off campus, but it can be safer.”

Incidents of violent and property crime in Evanston have dropped 58 percent since the crime index’s peak in 1997, according to the 2005 Evanston Police Department Crime Index.

The drop in crime doesn’t mean students shouldn’t still take precautions to ensure their safety on and off campus, especially when looking for housing in Evanston, University Police Assistant Chief Dan McAleer said.

“If you’re going to make the move from on campus to off campus, you must be aware of things that go along with renting apartments,” McAleer said. “You have to look at the security aspect as well – is it well-kept and well-lit by the landlord? Do they utilize good security equipment?”

There are several ways residents can educate themselves about crime and safety in the Evanston area, said Deputy Chief Joseph Bellino of Evanston Police Department. EPD provides a free security service called “target-hardening.” Residents can request that an EPD officer examine their residences and make recommendations to make it harder for offenders to break in.

Residents also can view crime bulletins on the EPD Web site to find out about reported crimes in their neighborhoods.

“Personal safety and awareness of your environment are important no matter what,” Bellino said.

At least eight students were attacked on or near campus during the 2005-06 school year, according to Daily archives.

“There’s no invisible wall on Sheridan Road that prevents perpetrators from coming on campus,” Bellino said. “(But) renters ought to educate themselves about the areas they’re looking at.”

Lakhani, who lives in Allison this year, said she is looking at renting an apartment next year in the Evanston Place complex, 1715 Chicago Ave., because of its safety and location.

“Evanston Place is really well-lit and in a good area,” Lakhani said. “A big population density helps because people are centered on campus. The further you move away, there are less people.”

A critical time for crime is when NU students leave for breaks, McAleer said.

“There are people that want to break into places. It happens in any town, but in a college town, they know when breaks are,” McAleer said. “If there are five newspapers piling up outside, you know they’re not there.”

Establishing a healthy relationship with neighbors is a good way to ensure added safety yearlong for NU students trying to assimilate into Evanston, Bellino said.

“It’s nice if you had the relationship where a neighbor could call the police if they saw something suspicious,” Bellino said. “Being a good neighbor, there are benefits to that.”

Lakhani said wherever she lives next year, she’ll take more precautions to ensure her personal and property safety.

“Maybe I’ll put up a ‘beware of dog’ sign,” Lakhani said. “I’ll try not to be walking back alone at night, probably study with friends more than I do now. Don’t be stupid, that’s the biggest thing.”

Reach Dagny Salas at [email protected]