Is Ypsilanti doing enough to protect off-campus students?

In light of recent deaths, students living in apartments worry about their safety

Last updated: 10/20/13 6:08pm


On the heels of the tragic death of Eastern Michigan University student-athlete Demarius Reed in his off-campus apartment complex, I was instantly reminded of two more unsolved cases which took place in off-campus apartments in the last year.

A public forum was held Friday in the Student Center Auditorium, at which EMU President Susan Martin, Vice President for Communications Walter Kraft and Police Chief Robert Heighes as well as members of the news media and EMU students and faculty were in attendance. But nobody from the Ypsilanti Police Department came, even after receiving an invitation from university officials.

Why won’t they talk?

Attempts were made by The Eastern Echo to make contact with the Ypsilanti Police Department, but were unsuccessful.

A similar forum was held last year in the wake of Julia Niswender’s death, and I spoke with people who attended that forum and was told YPD was not in attendance there, as well.

We were told Friday the university would be stepping up its patrols and increasing coverage by the SEEUS service. With all due respect, I applaud Eastern’s efforts to keep its students safe on campus, but that doesn’t do anything for the things that happen to EMU students in off-campus apartments.

What about the EMU student who was assaulted at Peninsular Place early Saturday morning? This is the same apartment complex where Niswender was killed. It is also the same apartment complex where a man was killed back in April while trying to mediate a dispute between his daughter and her roommate. What about the student who was assaulted by Abe’s Coney Island on Sunday morning?

The difference between the cases at Peninsular Place and Reed’s death is a very small one. He was killed in University Green Apartments on Leforge Road, just a short distance from Peninsular Place.

I live in an off-campus apartment, as do many students here at Eastern, and a question I have, which I heard asked at the forum and am certain many of you have as well is this: What about our safety?

What happens off campus does not fall under the direct jurisdiction of EMU. Simply put, it is not EMU’s job to monitor the areas that fall outside its borders. That falls to the Ypsilanti Police Department.

I understand that there are certain details that the YPD can’t release due to ongoing investigations and I’m okay with that.

What I want to know is that they are doing something about these incidents beyond investigating them for a couple of months before letting them go cold and forgotten. What are the police department and city doing to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place?

Ypsilanti Police Department and city of Ypsilanti, you owe it to the families of these victims as well as the people who live in our city – EMU students and non-students alike, to make our city a safe place to live, attend classes, raise families and grow old, not wondering if we are going to be the next unsolved case in a growing list of unsolved cases.

Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho.

Published Oct 20, 2013 in Opinions

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