Recent violence near Eastern Iowa colleges not concerning students, parents much

Diane Heldt
Published: August 23 2009 | 12:41 am - Updated: 30 March 2014 | 8:11 am in
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University of Iowa Police have fielded plenty of questions from parents concerned about violence near the Iowa City campus.

During summer orientation sessions on safety, parents of incoming students asked about the rash of male-on-male violence downtown in the spring, said Chuck Green, UI public safety director.

“That question certainly came up,” he said. “We heard a lot of ‘What are you doing to address it?’ ”

As college students return to classes this fall, recent spates of violence in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo — all Eastern Iowa college communities — have raised some concern but no fear, and the schools are prepared to deal with issues.

UI’s Cambus service, for example, is adding a third late-night weekend route to serve areas east of downtown, and UI Police are reminding students of safety tips. Also, six or seven more officers will start in coming months, Green said, in part to patrol downtown.

At Coe College in Cedar Rapids and the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, student and parent concern about safety actually hasn’t seemed more than usual.

Several Coe students said they feel safe on campus, which is bordered by busy First Avenue East. They are more careful, however, to stay in groups if they go into surrounding neighborhoods at night, they said.

A new police substation, called the Community Connections Center, opened this summer a few blocks from Coe after some high-profile crime in the area, including an attack on police officer Tim Davis in March.

“I heard it was an issue, but obviously it was not a factor in keeping me from coming,” Coe freshman Michelle Schupbach said Tuesday as she moved into Armstrong Hall.

Schupbach, an 18-year-old from Cedar Falls, said she is nervous about making friends and adjusting to classes but expressed little concern about safety. Her sister, Andrea Schupbach, 21, is a Coe senior. The elder Schupbach said she felt reassured in the spring when Coe officials sent e-mails and an emergency alert after violence nearby.

“It seems like they go to great efforts to make sure we are safe,” she said.

Mom Janet Schupbach, 53, said she’s not worried.

“We like Coe,” she said. “It’s a nice place.”

Officials at Coe, UNI and the UI — where classes all start Monday — said it’s important to coordinate with local police, so they know when an off-campus incident requires a student alert.

“You want people to be aware, but you don’t want to create an issue that’s not there,” said Dave Zarifis, UNI public safety director.

The number of shootings this summer in Waterloo is troubling, Zarifis said, but officials don’t want to create a panic among UNI students. At least a dozen people have been wounded by gunfire in Waterloo since May 1.

UNI Police monitor such situations and keep in close contact with Cedar Falls and Waterloo police, Zarifis said.

The Waterloo violence hasn’t been a concern cited by parents or students, though, UNI officials said.

Parents often ask general questions about safety during visits or orientation, officials at three schools said, but at UNI and Coe this year, it did not seem to be more of a concern than in the past.

UNI student Haley Madison was home in Ankeny for the summer. She didn’t hear about the Waterloo shootings, but she said last week that future violence would be a concern because she also takes nursing classes at Allen College in Waterloo. She lives in Cedar Falls, near UNI, and takes courses there under a joint program.

For many UNI students, she said, Waterloo is seen as far enough from campus to not be a concern.

“The people I know who go to UNI don’t go to Waterloo for any reason,” Madison, 20, said.

At Coe and the UI, some of the crime has happened in neighborhoods bordering campus.

“I had heard about it, and you think, ‘What the heck is really going on down there?’ ” Ames parent Carol Williams, 49, said. “Is it really safe? How bad is it?”

Williams’ daughter, Katie, starts Monday at the UI. She talked to her daughter about safety, but the incoming freshman assured her mom it will be fine.

“She’s very used to going anywhere and being safe,” Williams said. “It’s probably a normal attitude for kids her age.”

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