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UNF Spinnaker

Keep looking ahead, keep campus safe

The 2007 UPD campus crime statistics were released Oct. 1 by the Department of Education and paint a telling picture about the status of crime on the UNF campus.

Increases in robbery, burglary and drug law violations were offset by decreases in more serious crimes like arson, aggravated assault and motor vehicle theft.

But what does this say about our campus? Is it safer now than ever?

Looking at the big picture of the crime report, it is easy to generalize and say, for instance, that we’re willing to trade some loss of property for the relative absence of violent crime, the theft of our cars versus being engulfed in flames.

However, the nature of crimes being committed on campus has taken an interesting turn.

UPD Chief Mark Foxworth said the shift in the types of crimes occurring on campus can be attributed to UNF’s increased accessibility due to the expansion of the expressway system around campus.

UNF students, faculty and staff are now more exposed to opportunistic crimes as a result of a greater influx of motorists encroaching on what used to be a very isolated campus.

Where UNF used to be a place you had to plan to get to directly, the St. John’s Town Center, the rapid expansion of 9A and the recirculation of traffic around newly built ramps has drawn in an outside criminal element that wasn’t present.

Small-time crooks who are just passing though now have an easy chance to rob college students, a decidedly easier target than someone in a gated community with an alarm system.

But where is UNF’s gate and alarm system? How do students get peace of mind when they are becoming victims of Jacksonville’s ever-increasing suburban sprawl?

The answer is closing off campus, which obviously is no easy task.

This isn’t to say UNF should retreat into a solidified, armed bunker of higher education. It shouldn’t withdraw in a paranoid manner from society like Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, rather, we should encourage the university to divert itself away from the current traffic pattern so it is no longer a cut-through to other destinations in the area.

UNF should continue to buy surrounding pieces of property to keep the wooded-preserve feeling of the university and not succumb to the plaza-building suits that run Jacksonville.

The university should have it’s own identity, not simply be a destination sign on an exit ramp for a major road.

It’s not time to live in fear of crime. Our campus environment is very safe – safer, in fact, than almost any American city of its size­ – but a few minor changes in the way it allows traffic to pass through will ensure UNF stays this way.

If the university works proactively, they can prevent campus crime before it happens.

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