Danielle Hyams / Lantern reporter
The recent wave of off-campus crimes affecting Ohio State has prompted Undergraduate Student Government president Nick Messenger and Inter-Fraternity Council President Clark Siddle to introduce a petition detailing four objectives to enhance student safety.
Another Timely Warning was issued Monday, informing students of an armed robbery that took place early Sunday morning on Iuka Avenue. Two non-students were robbed at gunpoint by two white males between the ages of 20 to 25 years old, one of which was armed with a gun.
As a result of all the robberies and a meeting with Javaune Adams-Gaston, vice president of Student Life, Messenger and Siddle decided to write up the petition.
“We had a meeting with Dr. J (Adams-Gaston) regarding the crime issue and Nick (Messenger) and I had left that meeting and, to be honest, we were pretty upset,” Siddle said. “We know the resources are available to provide security in this area, they just have red tape blocking them. We just wanted to grab the bull by the horns and we knew we needed to take action.”
Messenger and Siddle plan to present petitions Tuesday during the meeting of President E. Gordon Gee’s safety task force.
Gee sent out an email Thursday to students detailing his plan to form a team of senior university leaders to address the crime occurring near campus.
The task force includes representatives from several different areas of campus. The team is chaired by Jay Kasey, senior vice president for administration and planning.
Messenger is a member of the task force, representing USG. Other members of the task-force include: Adams-Gaston; Chris Culley, senior vice president and general counsel; Tom Katzenmeyer, senior vice president for university communications; Melinda Church, executive officer for the Office of the President; Paul Denton, Chief of University police; VJ Gadepally, president for Council of Graduate Students; Megan Conroy, president for Inter-Professional Council.
Messenger said the problem is not the awareness of crime, it is the crime itself.
“I don’t think it’s an argument whether there is increased awareness or increased crime,” Messenger added. “One student being held at gunpoint is too many students being held at gunpoint, and if we don’t take proactive steps now its just going to keep happening.”
First and foremost, Messenger and Siddle seek to expand the OSU Police and Columbus Division of Police mutual-aid agreement.
“We’re hoping the task force will produce a shared jurisdiction between OSU police and Columbus police, allowing OSU police to be more proactive in stopping crime,” Messenger said.
Siddle echoed that sentiment.
“The joint jurisdiction issue is the biggest, we have a police force of 50 or so officers for the university and they can’t come over here (off campus),” Siddle said. “They can literally see a crime in progress and do nothing but observe and that’s absurd. If I’m a student I don’t care if your badge says Columbus or if it says Ohio State University, if I’m in danger you have an ethical, a moral obligation to act especially if you’re someone who is qualified to do that. It’s just really upsetting that the Columbus city red tape is getting in the way with that.”
Despite the issue of shared jurisdiction, University police Captain Dave Rose said University police has introduced various measures to increase its effectiveness, such as increasing police presence and communication with the Columbus police.
“This quarter we are running a crime interdiction program, so we do have extra officers working the street right now for that purpose,” Rose said. “We also have a joint patrol, which is a police officer that we pair with a Columbus police officer so that we can work with them and collaborate better.”
The following two goals of the petition focus on improving the lighting conditions off campus.
“You have to start improving off-campus lighting,” Messenger said. “I think students would agree on 13th (Avenue), 14th (Avenue), Woordruff (Avenue), Waldeck (Avenue), Iuka (Avenue), Lane (Avenue) — not very well lit. Pearl Avenue — not very well lit. And those are the areas where the crime is happening. You have to light those areas and the city has no reason not to. There are burned-out lamps that we can replace bulbs in, but there are also places where we should put up new street lamps.”
Messenger calls on landlords to do their part to ensure their residents’ safety.
“You have to get landlords on private property to fix lights that are off garages or houses,” Messenger said. “If you just go off-campus and look out there are so many street lamps that are privately owned by landlords, house lamps and plug lights that just aren’t on, the light bulb has been burned out for who knows how long, so we are demanding that landlords replace those things and light their private property.”
Lastly, Messenger requests that the university allocate more funding to Student Safety Services.
“The university needs to expand the Student Safety Service,” Messenger said. “The university has to be able to give students a ride home, they have to be able to not have wait times be three hours long.”
Messenger stresses the importance of completing all four of the listed objectives.
“You can’t just expand Student Safety and call it a done day. You can’t just get police jurisdiction off campus and call it a done day,” Messenger said. “You have to do all four of them to make the physical environment safer, to allow law enforcement to police more proactively and to allow students that option to circumvent the situation all together and get safe rides home.”
Messenger and Siddle kicked-off the petition Monday night, circulating it among fraternities and sororities during weekly chapter meetings.
Amanda Lambros, a Alpha Chi Omega sorority member, said she will be signing the petition.
“The crime is actually getting a little outrageous,” said Lambros, a fourth-year in economics. “As someone who lives off campus and drives to campus and has to walk to class — this morning I got to campus at 6 a.m. and I was very nervous to walk even to Starbucks from Iuka Avenue because people have been robbed at gunpoint.”
Lambros said that one of her sorority sisters was a victim of one of the recent robberies.
“It just kind of put a face to all the victims of the emails that we have been receiving,” Lambros said. “I hope that the university starts taking things more seriously and hire full-time police officers that will patrol off campus.”