Student: Off-campus safety a concern

Each night as she pulls into her off-campus driveway, senior Merillat Pittman asks her roommates to look out and see that she makes it from her car to the door safely.

“I’ve generally always felt really safe on campus,” she said. “But this being my first year to live off campus, I’ve definitely been more aware of the safety concerns.”

Glory Robinson, associate dean of Campus Life, met with the House of Student Representatives on Jan. 26 to gather information about student concerns regarding campus safety. Pittman, speaker of the house, was among many representatives who voiced concerns about areas off campus and outside of campus police jurisdiction.

However, the students’ sentiments were not echoed by other area residents.

Linda Antinone, president of Frisco Heights Neighborhood Association near the university, said she has felt safe living in her home for 15 years. Adjacent to the TCU campus, the Frisco Heights Neighborhood is enclosed by Lubbock Avenue, Forest Park Boulevard, West Berry Street and Park Hill Drive.

“One of the things that makes the biggest difference is when you know the people around you in your neighborhood,” Antinone said.

She said her neighborhood association works to prevent crime by meeting regularly and forwarding e-mails from the neighborhood police officer.

However, Antinone said poor lighting is definitely an issue in her neighborhood, especially in the areas where students walk. She said she recently drove around the neighborhood and counted about 11 non-functioning streetlights that she planned to report to the city.

Antinone said Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns attended the neighborhood meeting this year, but the lighting issue was not discussed.

Burns could not be reached for comment.

Robinson, the chair of the Safety and Security Committee, an ad hoc group formed this past fall, brought several committee members to the House meeting to assess the concerns around campus.

Student representatives had many suggestions for where the university could improve security, such as in parking lots and along walking paths, mentioning the areas around Berry Street and its surrounding neighborhoods as their biggest concern.

Sgt. Michael Hanvey of TCU Police was part of the committee that attended the meeting.

“We really can’t patrol off campus,” Hanvey said.

While off-campus safety is a topic the committee is working on, students should know that when they move off campus they leave the protection of TCU Police, he said.

Jackie Wheeler, student body vice president, said she will sacrifice that protection when she moves into her condo off of Forest Park next year.

“I’d have to say, usually I feel really safe around campus,” Wheeler said. “I don’t have a problem walking places by myself. But having walked around where I’ll be living next year, I think that lighting is a main concern.”

If the university could partner with Fort Worth to fix the lighting issue, it would make all the areas around campus feel safer, Wheeler said.

A university faculty member and Frisco Heights Neighborhood resident, who asked that her name be withheld for privacy reasons, said something could be learned from residents who have felt safe living and raising families in the area for many years. She said she thinks students probably feel like part of a different community than the homeowners in the neighborhood.

The faculty member said she researched her neighborhood extensively before moving there and was satisfied with the level of safety in the area. While she is generally not fearful for her personal safety, she said she does take precautions, such as not walking alone at night.

Neighborhood Police Officer Mark Russell said most of the crimes around the university are not incidents of personal contact but motor vehicle burglaries and other crimes of opportunity.

Russell said he facilitates the Citizens on Patrol program in the area, which is made up of a group of volunteer citizens who patrol the neighborhood with police radios in their personal vehicles. However, because the citizens are operating on a voluntary basis, they do not have set hours or round requirements.

Robinson said her committee will meet soon to discuss the findings from its focus groups from the House meeting. She said that while some areas are not within the university’s jurisdiction, it has a good relationship with community resources.

“I think overall we have a very good relationship with the City of Fort Worth,” Robinson said. “Not only the City of Fort Worth, but the Fort Worth PD, the communities, the hospitals…we use the resources, and I think have a good communication background.”