Northwestern launches off-campus lighting pilot program

Lauren Caruba

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Following a November “Off Campus Light Walk,” Northwestern is upgrading lighting in an off-campus area as part of a pilot program and is evaluating lighting on Sheridan Road.

The pilot program will improve lighting in an area of the Fifth Ward extending north from Emerson Street to Noyes Street and west of Sheridan to Ridge Avenue, which includes many student apartments. The program involves increasing the power of street lamps from 85 watts to 165 watts, and the University expects to complete it by the end of January, said Lucile Krasnow, special assistant for community relations at NU.

“The University and the city of Evanston have worked quite diligently over the past couple of years for a plan to evaluate the existing lighting, seeing what the problems are and what the remedies are,” Krasnow said.

University administration and student groups have recently been focusing on student safety due to the significant increase in robberies targeting NU students – including at least nine in the past year. Krasnow said the University is primarily concerned with off-campus areas west of Sheridan, where many of the incidents have taken place.

Because of the surge in nighttime robberies, some students said they feel less safe near campus. Social policy junior Laura Danforth, who has an apartment on Garnett Place, said she is now more cognizant of her surroundings when walking alone, especially at night.

“I had not felt unsafe walking on campus until recently with the robberies,” Danforth said. “I’m definitely going to start taking SafeRide more at night.”

In addition to the Fifth Ward pilot program, the University reviewed lighting on all buildings along Sheridan and plans to do the same for every building between Sheridan Road and Orrington Avenue, extending up to Lincoln Street. The University and Evanston will share the cost of improvements to off-campus lighting, Krasnow said.

Krasnow said the University hopes the plan to improve lighting in these off-campus areas will extend into other parts of Evanston as well as under CTA viaducts.

“We’re hoping that the city will continue to look at a variety of other streets and areas,” Krasnow said. “We’re hoping that this is only the beginning of moving forward with other off-campus areas.”

Associated Student Government is working with NU Facilities Management to coordinate more lighting upgrades on the west side of campus. Members of ASG are meeting with representatives from Facilities Management this week to discuss their findings from the Nov. 10 Light Walk, said Communication junior Steven Monacelli, ASG community relations vice president and a former Daily staffer.

“We need to make sure that students not only feel safe when they’re walking around, but are safe,” said Monacelli. “If an area is not properly lit, there’s a good chance that someone will use it as a place to hide and jump out at students.”

During the Light Walk, ASG members, administrators and representatives from both the Evanston and NU police departments identified lighting problems in sections of the sorority quads, near the Elder bike racks, at points along Sheridan and on streets off of Orrington and Lincoln, Monacelli said.

Although some students feel the lighting on and around campus is inadequate, others do not have any qualms about walking around at night.

“I feel very safe,” said Communication junior Kelley Schneider, who has an apartment on Emerson. “I think (the streets) are pretty well-lit.”

Aside from optimizing the wattage in street lamps, in the spring the University plans to evaluate trees and bushes that could be blocking some lights, Krasnow said.