Northwestern, Evanston assess off-campus lighting


Rafi Letzter/Daily Senior Staffer

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl (center) tugs on her dog Comet’s leash while participating in a walk organized by Associated Student Government senator Jane Gilmore (right) to identify poorly lit off-campus areas.

Lauren Caruba , Assistant Campus Editor

Representatives from Northwestern’s administration, Associated Student Government, University Police and Evanston evaluated lighting surrounding the western edge of campus Tuesday night in an annual Off-Campus Light Walk, a day after a tour to assess on-campus lighting.

The hour-long walk, which was cut short due to rain, began at Sheil Catholic Center, headed west along Noyes Street and down several side streets to end at Foster Street and Sheridan Road.

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) participated, while Betsi Burns, assistant dean of students for NU, and NU Police Officer Frank Walsh represented the University.

During the walk, participants marked  as poorly lit several Evanston parks and areas under viaducts, as well as numerous alleyways. Improving lighting in Evanston alleys requires petitions initiated by Evanston residents, but the areas under overpasses are the responsibility of the Chicago Transit Authority. Walkers also cited the corner of Maple Avenue and Foster Street as under-lit.

Prior to Tuesday’s walk, students helped highlight other areas for improvement to off-campus lighting. Comments made on ASG’s Facebook page Tuesday identified Emerson Street and Library Place as dark and “creepy in general,” said Jane Gilmore, ASG Panhellenic senator and member of the Student Life and Community Relations committees.

This year’s light walk follows efforts made last year to improve lighting both on and surrounding campus in response to a rash of robberies targeting NU students.

In a pilot off-campus lighting project implemented last year, NU partnered with Evanston to identify under-lit areas around campus. NU and the city increased the light bulb wattage of about 70 lights west of Sherman Avenue by the end of 2011, said Martin Lyons, Evanston assistant city manager.

NU and Evanston split the cost of the upgrades equally, Lyons said.

In addition, the city trimmed foliage blocking existing lights in the area. The group commented on the improved lighting on Gaffield Place from trimmed tree canopies.

Gilmore said better lighting has improved off-campus safety. No robberies involving NU students have been reported this school year.

“When you can see someone coming, they don’t have that element of surprise anymore,” the Weinberg junior said. “A lot of these people are looking for easy targets.”

Evanston is continuing to improve its lighting by upgrading the power centers supplying electricity to street lights. Tisdahl said she hopes to apply the model of ASG’s annual light walk to improve lighting in the rest of Evanston.

“It reduces crime, keeps people safer,” Tisdahl said. “I hope to have some light walks in other parts of town.”

ASG will conduct its next light walk in the spring, Gilmore said.