It was around 1 a.m. on the intersection of Bradford Ave. and Murray Ave. as UW-Milwaukee student Zoe Parmeter walked home after a night of light drinking at a friend’s house. Having just finished chauffeuring two drunken friends back to their Eastside apartment, Parmeter decided to skip the bus and walk home.
The night was a brisk but refreshing one, the faint pumpkin-orange glow of the overhead streetlights leaving thick patches of darkness on the sidewalk. A little uneasy in the inky-black night, Parmeter decided to call up her boyfriend to keep her mind occupied. In the distance, she spied what looked like the image of a male walking towards her, face concealed behind the shadow of a hoodie. Keeping an eye on him, she crossed to the other side of the street and continued on her way. Then, without warning, a strong forearm clasped tightly around her neck. “Shut up bitch,” the man behind her grunted, constricting Parmeter’s airway.
“My first thought was that it was a friend of mine who lived just up the block, but then I realized I was getting mugged,” said Parmeter. “I whipped around and tried to elbow him in the face but he used that opportunity to twist my arm around and take my purse.”
It was then that Parmeter’s attacker knocked her phone from her hand, grabbed it, and took off running down Bradford Ave. Subsequently Parmeter’s boyfriend heard the whole thing from the other end of the line.
“I had $400 in my purse when I was attacked. I also lost my iPhone, my wallet, all my identification, along with my credit and debit cards. Not to mention my dignity. It was one of the worst nights of my life,” said Parmeter. “I absolutely do not feel safe walking around or near campus. I did before I was mugged, but ever since then, I refuse to walk even on campus by myself after dark.”
Parmeter’s sentiments are not uncommon among UWM students, especially those who choose to live in the neighborhoods bordering campus. Incidents such as Parmeter’s are not uncommon among those living on the Eastside, the likes of which many UWM students are notified about through their UWM email accounts. According the UWM Police Department, these emails are titled, “Timely Warning Alerts.”
Between 2013 and 2014, 14 Timely Warning Alerts have been sent out to UWM students, faculty, and staff members. These emails describe 15 counts of armed robberies and two counts of sexual assault. Burglaries, thefts, and auto thefts are left out of these messages. The UWM
Police Department’s jurisdiction demands that they report only serious crimes which happen exclusively on campus owned property. Despite this, the department has made an effort to send out warnings concerning off campus crimes as well.
“What qualifies as a Timely Warning are crimes or incidents that pose a serious threat to the campus community. There has to be some information that we are able to pass along that would allow a person to take precautions for their own safety,” said UWM Chief of Police Gregory Habeck. “Under the Clery Act we are bound to report campus S.A.F.E. alerts and Timely Warnings for events that happen on campus. UWM has elected that if events happen in off campus neighborhoods close to campus, and we can provide some kind of awareness of what is going on in their neighborhood to protect themselves, we will do that.”
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) is a federal law that requires colleges and universities to report and publish crime statistics along with policies and procedures regarding campus security. Each fall, UWM compiles this information in the Annual Security Report and Annual Fire Safety Reports, which also contain personal safety guidelines and crime reporting information. Part of the Clery Act involves the dissemination and documentation of UWM’s S.A.F.E. Alert messages. These messages come in the form of phone messages, text messages, and emails.
“A S.A.F.E. Alert is what we would have to put out immediately if something was happening on campus,” said Chief Habeck. “The good news is that we haven’t had any significant events on campus that have risen to the level of putting out an emergency alert or a safe alert”
Per Clery Act records dating back to 2009, there has been 31 messages circulated to the campus community. Among these messages were 15 system tests, 10 tornado drill messages, two campus robbery updates, two messages advertising a UWM PD tabletop exercise in the UWM Union, and one message describing an incident in which a ladder fell on top and hospitalized a UWM PD officer.
Even with the UWM Police Department’s Timely Warning Alerts and S.A.F.E. Alerts, many students still feel wary about traveling in and around campus.
“I don’t feel comfortable walking home on Oakland and on the back streets,” said UWM senior Sethe Christensen. “Sometimes I walk home with 911 dialed into my phone just in case I need to get help quickly. I also interlock my keyset with my fingers, making sort of a makeshift set of brass knuckles. My roommate also has a rape whistle.”
“Even though we live in an urban neighborhood I still feel that Milwaukee has a very high crime rate. I honestly don’t venture out of the Eastside too much,” said UWM sophomore Elizabeth Paige. “I’m glad that people send out emails about safety issues, robberies, and other crimes that have happened neighboring the residence halls, but it scares me a little bit because this happens so frequently. I keep myself safe by carrying and pepper spray around me at all times and make
sure that I travel with a group of friends whenever we decide to go out. I try to make sure I am never alone.”
The UWM Police Department tries to counteract these unsafe feelings with an intense educational initiative which informs incoming UWM students on what they can do to stay safe while living in Milwaukee.
“I think the system is working as it is intended to work, we’re putting out the messaging that needs to be put out for people to be safe,” said Habeck. “Pay attention to your surroundings, pay attention to your valuables, and don’t engage in behaviors which enhance the risks factors that make you a victim. Take a minute and learn what you can do to be responsible for your own safety.”