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Editorials

Our view: DeKalb residents have right to security

Frustration is mounting in the community at the violent crime occurring in the northwest part of the city of DeKalb.

Although there are deep-rooted societal problems behind this phenomenon, there also is more that can be done by the city and property owners in the neighborhood to help police catch offenders.

On Monday, a man reported to police that two men attacked him as he walked out of his apartment building in West Ridge Apartments, one of whom hit the victim on the head with an object before they robbed him of his wallet and cellphone. Then they ran off.

A little before noon Thursday, a man with a gun walked into Huskies Discount Tobacco and held up the store at gunpoint and got away.

It looks like the continuation of a trend that the city saw in 2016, with violent crimes increasing 25 percent over 2015.

There are big-picture problems: Lower enrollment at Northern Illinois University has helped create a greater surplus in rental property. Low-income families are moving into these areas, which lack resources that families typically need, such as neighborhood parks and grocery stores. We are not creating enough opportunities for people in poverty.

But there also are ground-level issues that can and should be addressed. Residents in the area complained Monday about inadequate lighting and a lack of security measures such as camera systems in common areas.

Video surveillance footage can be critical in helping police solve crimes. Technology has advanced to the point where these systems can capture high-quality images.

And yet, when that armed robbery occurred Monday outside an apartment at the West Ridge complex, police said there were no cameras.

That needs to change, and not just at West Ridge. Landlords have a responsibility to the businesses and people who are their customers to keep them safe. Adequate lighting and proper systems for recording what occurs in common areas should be the standard.

In the interest of reducing crime and helping protect residents, the city also should try to find a way to contribute. It’s common for municipalities to offer property owners grants to improve building facades – they could establish a similar program to help assist in upgrades to promote public safety, such as replacing or installing camera systems, upgrading lighting and posting signs to make it known that those systems are present and working.

Criminals are like roaches – they’re pests who don’t like to be seen, and light will send them scurrying.

No matter their income level, all residents have a right to personal safety.

Ambivalence is our enemy in this fight. Now is the time for residents, property owners and government to work together to stem the tide.

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