Too Close to Home

Art by Victoria Shum

Words by Taylor Damele

When receiving Public Safety Notices, students struggle to find security in Syracuse University’s sometimes unreliable safety services.

Upon arriving in Syracuse and having settled into my new apartment, about eight hours had gone by before I heard the ping of a new email: a Syracuse University Public Safety Notice. In case you ignore your SUmail, DPS sends the emails to alert students of robberies, assaults, suspicious behavior, and everything in between. I had stopped taking them seriously around the fourth week of my freshman year, because their abundance seemed to diminish their importance. Now a senior, I didn’t think twice about getting a notice.

I was ready to scan the headline, read the always-generic suspect description, and then chat about it with my roommate. But this email grabbed my full attention. “Thornden Park — Forcible Touching.” The suspect hit her attacker and fled to Ostrom Avenue. Where was I while reading this? My new apartment on Ostrom, which has a lovely view of Thornden Park.

I’d spent the past three years living safely on campus, and now, living in an off-campus apartment, I feel quite vulnerable. I don’t have to flash my student ID to get into my room, and I don’t need to sign my friends in when they want to visit. When I was shown the apartment, its alarm system was the selling point, but because I’m missing the safety features dorms provide, I think it’s about time to learn how to use it.
Now that I have to pay attention to these Public Safety Notices to decide which way I should walk home on a Saturday night, I’ve realized that they irritate me. I really do appreciate the university alerting me of what’s happening near my home, but I’m curious as to why there are so many situations to tell me about. I know the City of Syracuse may not be as safe as Fayetteville or DeWitt, but I’d like to think SU is trying to keep its students safe. It seems to spend a lot of time telling me about stalking and molestation, but is it working on prevention?

Here’s a scenario: I’m out, and I receive an email that an assault has just been reported. Now what? According to the email, I should take advantage of the free safety escort services on campus, then lock my doors when I get home. Let’s try this. I call the safety escort service; they won’t walk me home because the buses are running, but I can wait 45 minutes for an escort to walk me to a bus stop. What’s more, our three shuttle-home services all warn of unreliability and untimely arrivals. OK, I’ll wait on the street alone for an hour while an assailant is on the loose. And for what? The bus may not run where I need to go, or I may not know the routes. When I finally get home, I should lock my doors. Locks can be picked — two of my friends’ locked homes were burglarized last year. You’re 0 for 2 in helpful hints, ‘Cuse.

We should try to prevent these incidents from happening in the first place. DPS should spend less time on Euclid waiting to break up house parties and more time patrolling for suspicious people. According to its website, DPS’s jurisdiction covers the campus and the surrounding neighborhoods, but I hardly ever see its officers driving around my neighborhood after nightfall. One night I was nervous to walk home because my phone was broken. I had no way to call for help if I needed it, but a DPS officer still refused me a ride home. This is a major contradiction to their job description, where student safety, rather than arrests, should be their main priority. But, he was parked outside a house party, presumably waiting for it to get too loud. I remember thinking his time could be better spent, especially since I don’t receive many Public Safety Notices about loud house parties.

I love my school and my apartment, and I usually feel safe at the University, but I should feel safe all the time. I urge students to learn how to keep themselves safe, whether that means making sure nobody walks home alone or taking the time to research what safety SU does offer. So until the University can fully prevent dangerous occurrences, it seems like it’s up to the students to make sure we keep ourselves safe. And hopefully our own safety measures will help to unclog our SUmail inboxes, too.


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