Failed Response from University of Chicago Police Department
The most common response I got once I told people that I was going to college in Chicago was usually something along the lines of be safe, you know it can get dangerous there. Growing up in New York, I was used to hearing people talk about larger cities in this foreboding way, but I was still a little unnerved with how truly horrifying the city, and the South Side in particular, was framed to be. I was told to never go further south than my dorm, to never go out at night, all the semi-dystopian warnings you’d expect. Even classmates would express their fear of walking alone or going anywhere south, making jokes about how we’d just end up getting shot or robbed at gunpoint.
It didn’t take long for these warnings to start to feel a bit off. My grocery store, some of my favorite new restaurants, even just the closest train station I use are all south of me, and never once have I felt like I was in the nightmare-inducing Chicago that I’d been so thoroughly told about.
Then I’d start noticing more. The ways students would be outraged after a shooting, demanding we came here to learn, not to die and how we needed more police. Did they think that anyone else was here to die? Did we not all see the rise in awareness about how dangerous systemic racism in policing can be for largely Black and POC neighborhoods, like the one we were actively taking over? The University already has one of the largest private police forces in the country.
If adding more police was the end-all be-all to making a neighborhood safe, you’d think that Hyde Park would be crime-free by now. But it’s not and adding more police will never fix that. Inadequate resources for mental and physical care, rampant poverty that is inherently linked to widespread systemic racism, and the deleterious actions of the University itself as it “has used the greater Hyde Park area as a lab to research issues of race, poverty, and violence,” as said in a 2019 article from the university’s own newspaper, have all worked to place the residents of the South Side at the bottom of a pit with no latter to climb out.
The University claims on its website that they “are dedicated to fostering meaningful social change and enhancing the quality of life for all of our neighbors,” and yet the school continues to throw more police at a problem that only funding programs dedicated to citizen welfare, safety, and health can solve. The very same programs that the university has, historically, actively worked to end.