Editorial: Evanston, NU should step up efforts to improve campus lighting, prevent crime

The Daily Northwestern Editorial Board

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Last week, two men attacked a Northwestern student shortly after midnight on the corner of Orrington Avenue and Simpson Street. One of the attackers had a gun, and after the student failed to turn over his wallet, the two men hit him in the head with the pistol and ran away.

Incidents such as this, which have sparked both concern and fear amongst students and residents alike, highlight the importance of safer nighttime conditions on and off campus.

A new lighting pilot plan that aims to address the lack of lighting in both areas has been in the works for more than a year, but there is currently no set implementation date, Dean of Students Burgwell Howard told The Daily last week. While the intent behind the idea is admirable, The Daily urges both the city and University to make setting an implementation date a top priority. Students in ASG and others quoted in srecent Daily articles expressed concern with the city of Evanston’s lack of lighting. Weinberg senior Lisa Wang told The Daily she “feels a lot more uncomfortable walking at night.

There are several areas both on and off campus that are in desperate need of better lighting. Even the emergency Blue Lights, located all throughout campus to make contacting the police easier and faster are not enough to help create a safer environment at night. Of the 57 Blue Lights in the NU vicinity, only seven are located off-campus.

According to the undergraduate housing website, on-campus housing is guaranteed only to freshmen, and two-thirds of undergraduates live in university-owned residences. The University does not provide enough residential buildings to house the entire undergraduate student body. If students cannot live on campus per lack of University resources, it is inevitable they will commute from their off-campus residences to on-campus activities. Their environments off campus, then, should be given the same attention as those on campus.

Statistics from the 2009 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Resource Guide show that 93 percent of crimes against college students happen off campus. Of these, 72 percent occurred at night. Though University services such as the shuttle system and Saferide help make the transportation to and from campus safer at night, these services should not be the end-all be-all of improving safety for students, especially as there are limits to their schedule and spatial scope.

The lighting pilot plan is a necessary first step in helping improve safety conditions on and off campus.