Danger on the Lawn

AS SELECT third-year students excitedly accept offers to liveon the Lawn next year, the University community ought to consider the level of safety a priority. People in and out of the University community visit the Lawn in droves, but the lack of lighting in the alleys poses a danger to all who are on the Lawn in the evening. A police presence interested in more than just catching streakers would be a good start to combating assaults and thefts.

"The Lawn is not a safe place to live," Lawn resident Ryan McElveen said.

McElveen noted acts of vandalism which have occurred immediately outside, and to, his door, but the most disconcerting events have been attempted break-ins.

"It is important to keep your door locked, as well, as earlier in the year I had frat guys attempt to come into my room while I was sleeping at one a.m.," McElveen said.

For Lawn residents (and their guests), just going to the bathroom requires stepping into a poorly lit alley, sometimes with nothing on but a bathrobe. A blue phone connecting to University police in each of these alleys would alleviate concerns of residents and visitors to the Lawn in the dark of night as well as demonstrate a commitment on the part of the University to make students at least a little safer in the heart of Grounds. Luckily, there has been no violence reported on the Lawn since then-Student Council presidential candidate Daisy Lundy was allegedly attacked in Poe Alley, but that was just five years ago, and it appears that realistic steps to make the Lawn safer have not been taken.

According to current Range resident Erin Kallman, a peeping tom was spotted outside her open window in the fall. Kallman said the Charlottesville police responded quickly, but that safety in terms of lighting remains an issue, especially in the area between the Corner and the Lawn.

"I make that walk to Starbucks late at night all the time," Kallman said.

Evie Hall, future Lawn resident, and training coordinator of Sexual Assault Peer Advocates said that while she does not fear for her safety on the Lawn itself, there are things the University can do to make sure all students feel safe and address issues of possible assaults in poorly lit areas behind and around the Lawn, including a police presence.

"The trek to the bathrooms or areas behind the Lawn are not particularly well lit and thus potentially hazardous," Hall pointed out. "Additionally, the proximity of the Lawn residents does not necessarily guarantee a quick response."

The University should take real measures to protect all of its students, whether they are traveling to or from a library, party, friend's house or bathroom.

Current Lawn resident Patrick Martinez said he feels "very safe" on the Lawn but also notes several incidents where residents have left their doors unlocked for a few moments as they quickly ran to someone else's room and came back to find strangers wandering in and out of rooms. Even locked doors have not been safe as thefts have been reported throughout the year, according to current Lawn resident Katherine Klem. Klem also noted that her locked room was broken into while she was out of town earlier this semester.

"Honestly, I don't feel very safe living there," Klem said. Klem also noted that there are times during the semester when the police force increases on the Lawn, but that police seem to be primarily interested in catching streakers, and when stealing and vandalism issues come up, police are nowhere to be found.

These threats do not apply exclusively to Lawn residents. As the physical and intellectual center of our university, students cross the Lawn on their way home from the Corner, off-Grounds housing, or perhaps even the library. The University touts its blue light system, but the fact of the matter is there is not a single blue light on or behind the Lawn. Police presence is spotty at best, and they seem to be more interested in catching streakers than protecting students or their belongings, considering the vandalism and break-ins which have occurred this year. The sheer number of visitors to the Lawn coupled with the lack of attention to safety ought to give all students pause.

The sexual assault on Grady Avenue last week reminds us that we cannot be completely safe anywhere, but the fact that the Lawn itself remains a dangerous place could be mitigated by providing a few more lights, blue phones and a big dose of self-awareness on the part of residents, students and visitors alike.

But watch out for those streakers just the same.

Maggie Thornton is a Cavalier Daily Viewpoint writer.

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