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CUC Experiences an Increase in Campus Crime Post-COVID: Report

Dispatcher+Andrew+Kuhnau%2C+responding+to+a+call+at+the+Department+of+Public+Safety+front+desk+on+Dec.+1.
Julian Perez
Dispatcher Andrew Kuhnau, responding to a call at the Department of Public Safety front desk on Dec. 1.

Reported crime on CUC’s campus has increased over the past few years, according to CUC’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) 2023 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.

The report, which is prepared in accordance with federal law, was released on October 9. It lists all crimes that were reported on the CUC campus in 2022.

Disciplinary referrals for drug abuse violations have jumped from six in 2021 to 19 in 2022, and from 17 liquor law violations in 2021 to 19 in 2022. At the same time, no arrests were made or citations handed out for either drug abuse or liquor law violations in either 2021 or 2022, according to the report.

“We have an excellent culture of reporting concerns and incidents on our campus,” said Dean of Students Kathy Gebhardt. “This enables us to address any issues when they arise.” 

The report also lists three incidents of burglary on campus in 2022, one incident of motor vehicle theft, one incident of rape, and one incident of dating violence.

When a student first reports a crime, campus safety meets with them to figure out how they want the situation resolved. If possible, information is obtained about parties involved in the incident through security camera footage. Although a lot of situations can be handled through DPS, police assistance is always available for anyone who wants it. 

Director of Public Safety Dave Witken did not note any specific trends in on campus crime within the report, but noted that COVID-19 made it difficult to observe any trends. During the pandemic, students had the option of either living on campus or living at home for the 2020-2021 school year, as all classes were remote. In-person classes resumed during the Fall 2021 semester. 

“Most of the crimes are happening in the neighborhood in River Forest,” said Witken. “However, we are part of the neighborhood. People find their way here too, so we have to be vigilant.” 

Alcohol, drugs, and smoking of any kind is prohibited on campus, even for students who are over the age of 21. A drug abuse violation is defined “a violation of state and local laws relating to the unlawful possession, sale, use, growing, manufacturing, and making of narcotic drugs,” according to the safety report. The legalization of cannabis in Illinois in January 2020 may have played a role in the increase, Witken said.

“While there are frequent odors of cannabis on campus, the odors don’t always correspond to a report of cannabis,” said Witken. “We have to have sufficient evidence in order to conduct a search.” 

The safety report defines a liquor law violation as “the violation of laws or ordinances prohibiting: the manufacture, sale, transporting, furnishing, underage possession of intoxicating liquor; maintaining unlawful drinking places; bootlegging; operating a still; furnishing liquor to a minor or intemperate person; using a vehicle for illegal transportation of liquor; drinking on a train or public conveyance; and all attempts to commit any of the aforementioned.” 

“I would tend to say the amount of people drinking on campus is flat, and doesn’t really change from year to year,” said Witken. “It’s really just a matter of how many people get caught drinking.” 

Resident Assistants and Resident Directors might report drugs or alcohol, these behaviors may be caught on camera, or someone from campus security might walk into the situation. Following an evacuation due to a fire alarm, substances might be found in plain sight in a student’s dorm room. 

The safety report also notes 12 cases of aggravated assault on campus in 2022, compared to 2 in 2021 and 8 in 2020. “Aggravated assault is a fight causing harm,” said Witken. “If we have a fight on campus, very rarely do we not call the police right away.” 

Dominican University is located about a half mile away from CUC, and with around 2,200 undergrad students, is comparable in enrollment size. While CUC and Dominican do not compare their annual safety reports with one another, the public safety offices of the two schools do communicate when necessary. 

“I don’t want to compare our stats with Dominican’s, because we need to stand alone and work on our own safety on campus,” said Witken. “However, sometimes safety on both campuses is impacted by an outside party.” 

In October of 2022, several purses were stolen from Dominican University, and CUC’s Department of Public Safety was informed of the incident. The offenders came to CUC as well and stole two purses from two unlocked and unoccupied rooms. CUC was able to capture pictures of the individuals from cameras and alert the campus to be on the lookout for the suspected thieves. 

“We’re a safe campus, but we’re an open campus and people have to recognize that,” said Witken. “It’s so important to report something suspicious to public safety for us to take a look at.”

Witken said that he is always looking for students to get involved in keeping CUC safe. 

“The students, faculty and staff are the eyes of security,” said Witken. “See something, say something.” 

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About the Contributors
Anna Kuschel, Editor-in-chief
Julian Perez, Photographer