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May 4, 2015

Crime in the city can impact student experience

By Michael DeRosa
Contributor

Ray Langhurst, a Cleveland State University student majoring in criminology, was coming home from a party last Halloween at Fenn Tower in Downtown Cleveland. As he was walking down East 13th Street, all seemed to be calm and quiet. But what Langhurst didn't know was that he was about to find himself in a dangerous situation.

"I'm walking down the street, it was 9:30 at night, almost 10," Langhurst said. "I'm walking near the arts building when this guy stops and asks me if I'm racist."

Things only got worse from there. The man who stopped Langhurst proceeded to punch him in the face and attempted to beat him up.

Fortunately, Langhurst suffered no serious injuries and was able to fend off his attacker. But the situation still him feeling angry about how nobody, police or pedestrian, was around to help him.

"I thought places like Euclid Avenue would be the safest since there's so many people, and there are so many 'dang' hidden cameras, and you got the specialized downtown police," Langhurst said.

Langhurst is one of the many victims of the various assaults, muggings and other crimes that occur throughout the downtown Cleveland area. With the odds of being a victim so high, this poses a problem for students or regular citizens who walk through the city on a daily basis.

The crime rates within the downtown area are based on how many reports are made on a daily basis. Then the number of daily crimes reported is measured per 100,000 residents within the Cleveland area. Those numbers are then compared to the number of daily crimes on a state and national level.

The website neighborhoodscouts.com gives specific information about the daily, state and national crime rates within a given area. An example of the information given includes how many reported incidents occurred within a year.

According to this website, the odds of becoming the victim of a violent crime, like assault or kidnapping, in Cleveland are 1 in 68 per 1,000 residents. While on a state level, the odds of becoming a victim in Ohio are only 1 in 349.

In terms of property crimes, like theft or arson, the odds of being a victim in Cleveland are 1 in 17. On a state level, the odds of becoming a victim are only 1 in 34.

To understand how high those odds are, one could simply look up the rates for another city. For example, the odds of becoming the victim of a violent crime in Columbus, Ohio are lower than in Cleveland - 1 in 132.

When it comes to property crimes, the rate of becoming a victim in Columbus is only 1 in 23.
Whether it's in Cleveland or somewhere else around the nation, the people who are fighting to keep us safe are the local police.

Officer James Rivera is one of these people.

"We're always wanting to improve safety," Rivera, a crime prevention officer at Cleveland State, said.

However, since Rivera and the other officers who patrol the campus are hired by Cleveland State, there is a limit to what they can do. This means that Rivera and the other Cleveland State officers can only handle campus-related crimes. But there is more to Cleveland than the campus.

There are neighborhoods like Scovill Avenue, an area on the east side of Cleveland near Quincy Avenue, which is about a seven-minute drive from Cleveland State's main campus. According to a chart on xfinity.com, a multimedia news site, Scovill is the second worst area in Cleveland to live in, with the odds of becoming a victim being just 1 in 6.

There are also the areas near Scovill, like West 118th Street near Cuyahoga Heights. That is where Cleveland State student Devin Thornton was the victim of a home robbery.

"Before I got home, I got a call from my mom's boyfriend asking why did I leave the door half open," Thornton, an english major, said. "I know better than to leave anything open when I leave the house, but I still may have left it open by accident."

It was when Thornton got home and saw that her laptop, as well as her mother's, were missing did she realize that a crime had taken place.

While the thieves who stole the laptops were caught, the break-in still left Thornton afraid to leave her home for the next month.

"I was worried that someone would break in and take more of our stuff if someone wasn't home to watch it all the time," Thorton said.

To ensure that people like Thornton don't feel that kind of anxiety, police make regular patrols around various streets within their district.

However, how often each area gets regular patrol visits depends on how high the crime rates are per district.

Officer Jennifer Ciaccia explained that areas with higher crime rates get assigned more officers than those with lower crime rates.

"We run statistics on the crime rates for each area," said Ciaccia, a detective for the Cleveland Police in the public information office. "From there, we assign people to those areas where we think they are most needed."

Despite crime rates changing every year, Ciaccia says that they don't revise the staff that often.
According to Ciaccia, there is also nothing that really influences the amount of crime that occurs within a certain area, it's all just a matter of opportunity.

And within those areas, there are criminals who know when to exploit that opportunity. Such was the case for Brittany Kotowoski, a psychology major at Cleveland State, when she became the victim of a kidnapping attempt last semester.

"I was inside the Student Center during the cultural festival the school offers, where international students cook food," Kotowoski said.

Kotowoski explained that while she was at the festival, a white man seemed determined to talk to her. After turning him down, the man quickly grabbed her arm and attempted to take her with him.

“He pulled me toward him and told me I was going to talk to him whether I liked it or not,” Kotowoski said.
Kotowoski was able to pull her arm away and escape before anything else could happen.

“I stumbled and fell, but I pulled my arm away from him and told him to get off me and went to the information desk in the student center asking for police,” Kotowoski said.

The police were able to catch the man and his apparent partner, who were both posing as Cleveland State students.

“I didn’t like it,” said Kotowoski. “I was not happy, and I was pretty pissed off and defensive at the time,” she said. “I felt violated.”

Not only was she angry at the men who tried to kidnap her, but she also held feelings of anger toward the police. While it seemed that the police would take the matter seriously, according to Kotowoski the investigation has taken much longer than anticipated.

As of now, the two men are in custody but charges have yet to be made.

Students that attend Cleveland State would think that they were safe on the main campus. But apparently, that’s not always the case.

“When I was in the student center, around over 100 students, not one cop or security person was there,” Kotowosoki said.