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DeKALB – The results of a Northern Illinois University student survey show the majority of students don’t feel safe in the Greek Row area.
Members of the Safe Quality Housing Task Force safety subcommittee met Wednesday afternoon on NIU’s campus to review the information gathered in May. The survey reached nearly 300 students, many of whom were living in the northwest neighborhood of DeKalb known as Greek Row.
Subcommittee member Jill Zambito said that while a representative from the Housing Authority of DeKalb County told task force members earlier this month that certain crime rates at NIU are lower compared with other university communities, 75 percent of students surveyed said they did not feel safe in Greek Row.
“To me, that is statistically significant,” Zambito said. “How students feel does not correlate with the [crime] statistics.”
Kelley Chrisse, a housing research analyst with the Housing Authority of DeKalb County, told the task force at a meeting earlier this month that, based on crime statistics universities must submit through Clery Act laws, NIU and the DeKalb area ranked the lowest out of five other comparable university communities.
The Clery Act requires universities to report crime statistics related to homicide, sexual offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, arson, motor vehicle thefts and other violations.
But in a gauge of broader crimes outside of those included in the Clery Act, Chrisse said DeKalb’s crime rates fell in the middle of similar communities.
Beyond perceptions of safety, the survey asked students how long they lived in the Greek Row area, how often they walked through the area and what types of steps they’d be willing to take to increase their safety.
Most students surveyed – 93 percent – said they would feel safer by walking in pairs, and 83 percent said they would attend events in the area in groups. Other options students selected included participating in a neighborhood watch and police liaison programs.
The survey results prompted the subcommittee to prepare a recommendation for the Safe Quality Housing Task Force’s August meeting. Subcommittee members hope the city and the task force can join efforts in the fall to host a meeting with students who live in Greek Row fraternities and sororities to get more student feedback.
Zambito suggested hosting an informational meeting in the fall so task force members would share the crime data collected by the Housing Authority of DeKalb County, distribute information about neighborhood watches and increase students’ overall perception of safety.
Subcommittee member Tina Kaus suggested using the meeting as a prototype that can be applied to other targeted neighborhoods, such as the area near Pleasant Street. Subcommittee member John Rey suggested finding ways to reach those who live in and own rental properties.
The task force is working with city officials to improve some of the things students said would help them feel safer, such as upgrading the street lamps along Edgebrook Drive, Blackhawk Road, Greenbrier Road and Kimberly Drive.
Joel Maurer, assistant director of public works for DeKalb, said the city is working with ComEd to upgrade the 150-watt light bulbs with new 250-watt light bulbs in about a dozen of the street lamps, as well as adding 16 to 20 new lamp arms to existing poles in the area.
Maurer said the lighting order has been submitted to ComEd. It likely will require about $30,000 worth of work that’s likely slated to start in October. He said trees in the area have been trimmed near light posts, which has improved the lighting.
“I think what the students need to see is NIU, the city and ComEd working together,” subcommittee member James Zanayed said. “One big organization working to improve their safety.”
Rey suggested the task force administer another student safety survey in the fall.