Crime-ageddon: The alarming increase in illegal activity in the DU area

Photo by DJ Callahan, Evans St. Alley

Photo by DJ Callahan, Evans St. Alley

DENVER – It’s every late-night studier’s worst nightmare. You’re walking home from the library, laptop and textbooks in tow, when you realize that you’re not the only one out on the dimly-lit streets late at night. The setting turns from innocent to hostile as you realize what is about to happen: you are getting robbed at gunpoint. This occurrence, once thought of as an outlier in the University of Denver area’s crime history, is now becoming more common than ever before. Even on campus, it seems that nobody is safe from the riff-raff that the wealthy university draws to its gates.

2015 proved to be one of the most violent years for the University of Denver. With dozens of instances of violent crimes in the immediate area, ranging from sexual assault and vehicle theft to armed robbery and battery, many students are fearful of what this may mean for the future of the DU community. Is this the beginning of a downward spiral into rampant lawlessness in the area?

“Not likely,” says Campus Safety Officer Arthur Curry. “There has been a lot of crime being exposed lately, but that’s mostly because students have been more careful about reporting these situations.” An officer since 2012, Curry has seen his share of crime in the area. “Most of what we deal with is petty theft, like people breaking into cars and such. And when this type of stuff comes up, it usually passes pretty quickly.”

However, the petty thefts and delinquency is not what most students are worried about.

Just last November, there were two reports in one day of multiple individuals with a gun on campus. These individuals were never caught by law enforcement to the best of our knowledge, and are not strangers to the DU area. This is a trend that people are taking note of: the reporting of incidents with no arrests by either Campus Safety or the Denver Police Department. The DPD has admirably decided to run increased patrols in the DU area and Campus Safety has been offering free escorts for students back home, but the threats are still out there.

So, where are these dangerous parts of the neighborhood that leave students so susceptible to crime? The streets where the incidents have taken place are alarmingly familiar to any DU visitor: Iliff Avenue, Williams Street, High Street, the Ritchie Center, etc. These are places students must venture in their daily lives, many late at night, in order to fulfill their obligation to the university and accomplish their schoolwork. A quick scan of the locations given by Campus Safety reveals that these robberies and assaults often occur in close proximity to residence halls and off-campus housing.

Photo by DJ Callahan, 1/17/16

Photo by DJ Callahan, 1/17/16, Laura Noelle

One student, Laura Noelle, lives on S. Humboldt Street just a few blocks away from campus. “I try to walk home at night as little as possible,” she explains. “With all the robberies and assaults, I just don’t feel safe enough to do it. I usually call a campus escort or have my boyfriend walk me home.” It is also beginning to affect her studies as well. “If I’m out late with my friends or my sorority, I usually will have to sleep on a friend’s couch to avoid walking home at midnight or later and it makes getting work done the next morning impossible.”

Yes, students all over campus are feeling the weight of this issue. So, what can be done to help limit the risk involved in moving around on campus? “Always, always, always report anything suspicious,” answers Curry. “The more information we have, the easier it’ll be for us to stop someone.” Officer Curry also advises students to travel in groups, let people know where you are going and when you should be back, and to be aware of the on-campus call-boxes that have a direct line to Campus Safety.

Campus Safety has also posted a list of preventative measures and precautions that can be taken on their website.

Weston Eckloff, another student at DU, has some other advice for people looking to stay safe in the area. “Don’t do anything stupid,” he suggests. “Don’t walk around at night decked out in bling and make yourself an easy target.” He also adds that students “should carry some kind of protection, too. Maybe like pepper spray or even a whistle. We can’t be easy pickins for these people.”

Photo by DJ Callahan, 1/16/16

Photo by DJ Callahan, 1/16/16, Campus Call-box

Hopefully, with the frigid months of January and February in full effect, the criminals responsible will be less apt to continue their illegal actions, as cold weather usually ushers in a drop in criminal activity. However, it remains to be seen if this recent crime spree will eventually ebb and DU will sink back into it’s safe pocket in the neighborhood, or if it will get worse as time goes on and criminals go unchecked. At this point, the best things students can do might be to just tough it out and show that the Pioneer community will not be frightened into submission by thieves and attackers.

We attempted to reach out to the victims of some of these recent crimes, but they, along with Campus Safety, thought it would be in their best interest to keep their identities private.


One Response to Crime-ageddon: The alarming increase in illegal activity in the DU area

  • Savannah Christie says:

    DJ,your story was very compelling and a good read. I especially enjoyed it because of the topic, which is very relevant to me. I can relate to your interviewee, Laura Noelle about bing afraid to walk home alone late at night, as I live on the same block where one of the most recent robberies occurred. It is interesting to read that many students feel the same way. I think including statements from your interview with a campus safety officer added a really great element to the story. It is a little disconcerting to read that Curry stated, “…it usually passes pretty quickly.”
    Curry’s response makes me feel as if campus safety could be a little more concerned about recent crimes that have taken place around campus. I think you did a really thorough job of shedding light on this issue!

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