MADISON (WKOW)-- A sudden increase in violent crimes near the UW-Madison campus has prompted students and officials to take a deeper look at safety. The meeting was in response to armed robberies near campus. Madison police say they've seen a 30% increase in robberies in that area.
"It goes on and off over the years, but what's different this time is that the students are really commonly using ear buds in both ears. As a result they're not aware of their surroundings," UW Police Chief Susan Riseling says.
Not only are they less aware when they're walking on the street, but students are more likely to carry expensive portable devices and are sometimes under the influence of alcohol. Which is why Madison and UW Police think more criminals are targeting college students for armed robberies. They cited three incidents in early September where students living off-campus were all robbed at gunpoint.
"Students are very concerned about the e-mails they've been getting about what they have been seeing on the news and on social media," Associated Students of Madison Chair David Gardner says.
The recent crimes have kept Safe Walk volunteers busy. Calls for service have nearly doubled in recent weeks.
"I've seen an increase in the number of people that are glad to see our presence. We'll be walking around and a student will come up to us and say oh, you're safe walk. Oh my gosh, can I please use your service?" Safe Walk volunteer Bess Donoghue says.
Students at Sunday's meeting spilt up into groups to come up with other ways to promote safety on campus. A popular idea was bringing back the Safe Ride program. Other ideas include extra street lights, neighborhood watch programs and more communication with campus police.
"We're all in it together, but this is really the start of something that I think we'll see a lot of good come out of," Gardner says.
Earlier this week UW-Police also organized a Twitter chat and web chat for UW students and their parents. They've been getting phone calls every day this month. Police have also increased patrols in the off-campus neighborhood where these crimes have been taking place.
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