Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Evanston and Northwestern police forces forge close ties

Medill sophomore Alison Decker was walking near Darrow Avenue last Spring Quarter when two men mugged her, grabbing her from behind and holding her to the ground to steal her iPod and cell phone. Three minutes after the attack, Decker said, the Evanston Police Department arrived on the scene.

“I was a little bit in shock, but I was clearly not injured,” Decker said. “So they (EPD) were really concerned with finding the people quickly.”

This rapid response is one benefit of the partnership between EPD and University Police, Dean of Students Burgwell Howard said. For more than 20 years, the Evanston Police Department and UP have forged a “symbiotic relationship,” supporting each other in everything from traffic stops to sexual assault, EPD Cmdr. Thomas Guenther said.

So when NU donated $253,000 to the City in August to purchase a new ambulance, it was more than just a symbolic gesture.

Howard said unlike some universities he has worked for that don’t have their own sworn officers, NU benefits from UP’s close relationship with the City’s first responder units.

“One of the things I think many law enforcement agencies learned after 9/11 and other emergencies is the ability to work well with other units and to communicate,” Howard said. “Because they have this relationship and this agreement between the police forces, they’re able to work very seamlessly.”

Once an auxiliary of the EPD, UP officers went through EPD training and lacked jurisdiction off-campus until 1985, when a state law allowed private universities to create departments, UP Deputy Chief of Police Daniel McAleer said.

Now, UP and EPD share full police power both on and off campus.

“Anything that we see off-campus in our presence, we can take in force of action,” McAleer said. “The same goes if EPD was on our campus and witnessed a criminal offense taking place. They could take arrest action or issue a citation.”

Despite the departments’ close connections, campus boundaries determine which force takes the reigns in a given situation. UP responds first to on-campus calls, EPD to off-campus, McAleer said. From there, officers notify each other and determine whether they need backup from the other department. McAleer said blue lights pushed on campus connect to UP lines while those off-campus, such as those near El stations, go to EPD.

“Let’s just say you’re on campus and you say, ‘Gosh, my laptop got stolen when I was in the library on the way to the bathroom.’ You wouldn’t call us,” Guenther said. “We’d say ‘no, that’s a campus situation, call Northwestern University Police,’ and they would take the theft report. But if that same student takes the same laptop and goes to the library in downtown Evanston, regardless of whether they’re a student or not, then that would be a jurisdictional call for us.”

Emergency 911 calls go to the EPD communication center to be dispatched to EPD, UP or both, McAleer said.

After being mugged, Decker flagged down a passing car. The passenger called 911 and, because Decker called about 20 minutes away from campus, reached EPD. EPD brought Decker to the station to try to identify her assailants and followed up with Decker for a few weeks, though she never recovered her belongings. Because she was attacked from behind and couldn’t see the muggers’ faces, Decker said she did not press an investigation.

But UP jurisdiction doesn’t end at the University’s Arch. Although EPD is the primary respondent for noise and public disturbance complaints off campus, McAleer said UP assists in party patrols, especially close to campus. On-campus parties fall under UP domain unless there is a larger issue of public safety. When an incident on campus requires an ambulance, UP calls the Evanston Fire Department to handle the transport, he said. In 2009, the University donated $550,000 to the City to purchase a new fire engine.

Beside these joint efforts, the departments train together and meet once a week to discuss recent crimes and plan future initiatives, McAleer said.

Most importantly, McAleer said the two departments collaborate when emergencies require pooled resources. UP asks for backup with sexual assault cases involving multiple or underage victims or offenders, and EPD handles death investigations regardless of location.

“It’s always nice that if you do have a serious situation, knowing that you have these officers that will respond that know our department, know our university, know our campus, know our community,” McAleer said. “It works both ways.”

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Evanston and Northwestern police forces forge close ties