We all must work to stop campus crime

Here at the University, students have a basic expectation: we should be safe from violent crime on and near campus.

In Fall 2014, the UAPD released five crime advisories over the five-month fall semester. Just six weeks into Fall 2015, we have already eclipsed that number with seven advisories pertaining to nine incidents. Over the entire year of 2014, nine advisories were issued. We have reached that number—once again—in five weeks.

Every crime advisory is available on the UAPD website and is sent to students once released. Reading through them is not pleasant. A block and a half from the Strip, a UA student was struck by three criminals, hit while he was lying on the ground, and was robbed of his wallet. In sight of East Edge Apartments, a criminal held a student with a weapon in his back and took his wallet—before 10 p.m. And perhaps most heinously of all, a female student was picked up from the strip under the guise of a church group offering rides home and was sexually assaulted. All in less than three weeks.

The Strip and downtown Tuscaloosa feel more dangerous this fall than last spring. The city in Fall 2013, my first semester at the University, faced no safety issues of this scale. Student safety is quickly becoming a huge issue, but collectively we do not recognize the magnitude of the problem. No one wants to talk about it.

I am proud to help lead a student government that takes student safety and well-being seriously. The massive success of Alabama’s 'It’s On Us' campaign by Director of Programming and Advancement Jordan Forrest proved just two weeks ago the power of students’ voices on an issue affecting so many young women and men at the University. Soon, Chief Implementation Officer Drew Cicero’s campaign for mental health will kick off, drawing attention to another critical student safety and well-being issue.

A third campaign must join our twin initiatives for sexual assault prevention and mental health education. Our campus needs a coalition for student safety and well-being.

Student leaders across campus, by coming together, can voice their opinions to implore University administration and Tuscaloosa decision-makers for sustainable change. The SGA can and will provide a forum for leaders to discuss student safety—and implement initiatives to make students safer on campus. We must all be proactive about safety at the University and work collectively to make this campus our home.

On Sunday morning, I read a police report on a group of students accosted near Lakeside Dining. They were walking together in a lit area on campus. These students followed all the right policies our administration and UAPD recommend for student safety and they were robbed in sight of the Ferguson Center. This crime needs to stop.

Jonathan Hess is a junior majoring in finance. He is the Vice President of External Affairs for the Student Government Association.

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