To the Editor: 

We are residents of Hyde Park, Bronzeville, Kenwood, Washington Park, and Woodlawn who are alarmed by the new “safety” measures proposed by the University of Chicago in a recent webinar.  

We are deeply saddened by the recent killing of student Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng in an armed robbery. We do not believe that increased UCPD presence would have kept him safe, or that it will increase safety for neighborhood residents. The safest communities are those with the most resources, not those with the most police.

We are particularly alarmed by the proposal to increase traffic stops by the UCPD in our community; the UCPD has long faced credible accusations of racial profiling in their traffic stops, which are backed up strongly by field interview data released by the department. However, because the UCPD is a private police force, they are not subject to FOIA or other accountability measures, so exact data remains unavailable. We are scared for the consequences of this plan to our neighbors of color. 

Unfortunately, the University has a history of ignoring community concerns about problems with UCPD. After the UCPD shot a student experiencing a mental health crisis in 2018, many U. of C. students and community members called for accountability; but the University took no action and refused to meet with concerned students. When student groups held a sit-in in 2020 calling for a public meeting with the University to discuss potential changes to UCPD budget or policies, they were rebuffed. At no time has the University indicated that it is a good faith partner with either the student body or the rest of the community with regard to strategies for public safety and accountability.

Far from needing expansion, this private police force already has far too broad a remit. The physical jurisdiction of UCPD is bloated, extending as far north as 37th Street, an area certainly not known for UChicago student activity. Many of us have observed UCPD engaging in policing well away from university property regarding incidents that have no university-affiliated participants. The UCPD can often feel like an occupying force to neighborhood residents; this only increases the senses of hostility and division that can be precursors to violence. 

While the University of Chicago will always be an important influence on Hyde Park and other adjacent neighborhoods, their 14,000 students are just a fraction of the 65,000 residents of our community who are unwillingly placed under the UCPD's jurisdiction. In addition to being within the jurisdiction of CPD, along with all other city residents, we and our neighbors are additionally policed by people granted full policing powers and armed with deadly force, but without the accountability, requirements, or training of citywide police. This is fundamentally unacceptable, and expanding the power of this force will reduce, not increase, public safety in our community.

Some of us are UChicago alumni who chose to stay in or return to Hyde Park, and some of us have bought homes here. But we don’t want to live in a community that is paternalistically dominated by an institution that, in pursuit of its narrowly defined ideal of safety, only exacerbates the inequities that lie at the root of violence. We urge the University to change course on these dangerous security theater practices.

Abigail Anderson, Cornell Ave (UChicago Grad Student)

Nick Asby (UChicago Grad Student)

Susan Avila

Benjamin Balthaser, Blackstone Ave

Isabel Bartholomew, Harper Ave (UChicago Student)

Andrew Basta, Ellis Ave (UChicago Student)

Samuel Baudinette, 52nd St (UChicago Grad Student)

Allison Beaulieu-Cholke, Kimbark Ave (Lab School Teacher)

Calvin Beckert, Dorchester

Sheila Bedi (Lab School Parent)

Breanna Bertacchi, Ellis Ave (UChicago Staff)

Larry Bienz, South Shore Drive (UChicago Alum)

Brooke Bonsack, Dorchester Ave (UChicago Grad Student)

Daniel Candee, South Blackstone (UChicago Grad Student)

Evan Cholerton, Ellis Ave (UChicago Student)

Sam Clendenning, Kenwood Ave

Joy Clendenning, Kenwood Ave

Mikolaj Czerwinski, East View Park

Helena Duncan, Dorchester Avenue

Anna Duong-Topp, Cornell Ave (UChicago Grad Student)

Adrianna Ellis, Michigan Ave

Jason Evans, Harper Ave (UChicago Alum)

Nikki Everett, East View Park (UChicago Alum)

Patrick Forrest, State St

Isabela Fraga (UChicago Grad Student)

Sawyer French, University Ave (UChicago Grad Student)

Sara Volk de Garcia, University Ave

Leslie Gordon, 53rd St

Karlyn Gorski, 61st St (UChicago Grad Student)

Courtney Gray, 62nd St (UChicago Grad Student)

Eli Haber, Hyde Park Ave (UChicago Student)

Pim Halka, Blackstone Ave

Debra A. Hass, Dorchester (UChicago Alum)

Stephen Haswell Todd, East View Park (UChicago Faculty)

Clinee Hedspeth, 56th St

Julian Hendrix, 55th St (UChicago Alum)

Jake Higgins, 49th St (UChicago Student)

Pieter Hoekstra, Harper Ave (UChicago Grad Student)

Kelly Holob, 52nd St (UChicago Grad Student)

Maya Holt, Dorchester Ave (UChicago Student)

Tomal Hossain, Blackstone Ave (UChicago Grad Student)

Bill Hutchison, Ingleside Ave (UChicago Staff)

Christopher Iacovetti, Harper Ave (UChicago Grad Student)

Matthew Isoda, East View Park

Samyuktha Iyer, Blackstone Ave (UChicago Student)

Jacob Kaufman, Harper Ave (UChicago Student)

Maira Khwaja, East End Ave (UChicago Alum)

Christine Kim, Blackstone Ave

KathyAnn Lee, S Woodlawn Ave (UChicago Grad Student)

Lilly Lerer, East View Park (UChicago Med Student)

Scott Loring, 62nd St (UChicago Grad Student)

Anali Migueles Lozano, 52nd St (UChicago Grad Student)

Steven Lucy, East View Park (UChicago Alum)

Rebecca Luttrell, Harper Ave (Former UChicago Staff)

Raphael Magarik, 53rd St

Agnes Malinowska, Kenwood Ave (UChicago Staff)

Mame Maloney, Everett Ave (UChicago Alum)

Brigid Maniates, East View Park

Paula Martin, Kenwood Ave (UChicago Grad Student)

Alice May, Woodlawn Ave (UChicago Alum)

Celest Contreras McCarty, Ridgewood Ct

Timothy Mcgovern (UChicago Alum)

Michael McIntyre, Woodlawn Ave (UChicago Alum)

Julia McMillan

Kathryn Meade, Dorchester Ave

Frank Medina, Kimbark Ave (UChicago Med Student)

Gabriel Meltzer, East End Ave (UChicago Alum)

Diego Morales, 19th St

Camille Morgan Shorter, University Ave (UChicago Staff & Lab School Parent)

Alex Muir, Everett Ave (UChicago Faculty)

Linda Rae Murray M.D. MPH

Corrigan Nadon-Nichols, 54th St (UChicago Alum)

Mary Naftzger, 50th St

Courtney Nelson, Indiana Ave

Elizabeth Nelson, Hyde Park Blvd (UChicago Alum)

Tara Orris, Kenwood Ave (UChicago Alum)

Sam Ozik, Kimbark Ave

Kaneesha Parsard, Woodlawn Ave (UChicago Faculty)

Mike Phillips, Maryland Ave (UChicago Staff)

Betsy Pillion, Everett Ave (UChicago Alum)

Nicholas Pizzo, Drexel Ave (UChicago Grad Student)

Sarah Price, Everett Ave

Jesse Raber, Hyde Park Blvd (UChicago Alum)

Lisa Rademacher, Woodlawn Ave

Rich Ranallo

Clara Raubertas, Hyde Park Blvd (UChicago Alum)

Taliah Ray, Hyde Park Blvd

Peter Meyer Reimer, University Ave (UChicago Alum)

Betsy Rubin, Blackstone Ave

Rachel Rubin, Greenwood Ave

Amanda Ruch, Harper Ave (UChicago Alum)

Brooklyn Rue, Ridgewood Ct (UChicago Grad Student)

Derek Schlabach, Harper Ave

Avi Schwab, Park Place (UChicago Alum)

Tristan Schweiger, Blackstone Avenue (UChicago Grad Student)

Michael Scott, Kenwood Ave

Ezra Serrins, Blackstone/53rd (UChicago Grad Student)

Erica Sim, 55th St

Mary Smith, 54th St (UChicago Grad Student)

Martynas Snarskia, Michigan Ave (UChicago Staff)

Jack Spicer, Woodlawn Ave

Peter Sporn, Stony Island (UChicago Alum)

Patricia Tatum, Vernon Ave (Former UChicago Employee)

Alex Weiss, Kenwood Ave (UChicago Alum & Staff)

Ella Wilhelm, 52nd St (UChicago Grad Student)

Nolan Winkler, Blackstone Ave (UChicago Alum)

Lily Ye, Ridgewood Ct (UChicago Alum & Faculty)

(12) comments

gjones

Integrity, can you elaborate on effective policing? I believe in effective policing but I think my idea of effective policing is different than yours. My fundamental understanding is that policing exists to primarily protect and serve the interest of the propertied class. Therefore effective policing could be keeping Hyde Park safe while Woodlawn and surrounding lower-income areas have violence. However, I believe that we'd like all neighborhoods to be safe. If safe neighborhoods everywhere is the goal, then policing cannot accomplish this and effective policing is not possible. This is why I ask what is your understanding or idea of effective policing. Police cannot stop crime. At best they can keep it primarily contained to certain neighborhoods.

Integrity

Aside from your assertion that police cannot stop crime, how about evidence of that? The many news stories of police stopping a crime seem to contradict your assertion.

gjones

I'm not sure what happened, but I replied to you. I'll reply again. Here is one article from a peer-reviewed journal: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0011128710382263. You can search Google Scholar for more evidence. I'm no social scientist, so this is not my expertise. Unfortunately, the news is unreliable on this topic because the news functions to create fear and promote propaganda.

gjones

If you have trouble seeing that article google "Gary Kleck Criminology" and "Gary Kleck Do More Police Lead to More Crime Deterrence?" I admit he's only one researcher, but if you read his stuff, he'll reference or mention other research that supports or critiques his work. We definitely need to discuss effective policing, so I appreciate your comments. But we absolutely cannot rely on the news to properly inform us.

HpRez123

Yes, there are things that need to and should change regarding UCPD practices. However, I’m not understanding what the point of the letter is trying to do? I am for putting funds into other services and all but for the immediate future, what do the residents who signed this letter suggest ?

Integrity

Precisely how do you suggest dealing with violent criminal predators who are victimizing innocents?

jsinaiko

Well, NOT by flooding the hood with incompetent cops.

Integrity

Perhaps you should cite facts rather than baseless perceptions.

gjones

I understand your concern and we need a plan for immediate and longer term violence reduction. I think the research shows that more policing is not a solution and unfortunately, there are no effective immediate solutions to reducing violence without a tremendous limitation or violation of civil liberties and freedom e.g., imposing curfews, restricting entry into the neighborhood, etc. These measures cost a lot because of the increased police presence and police administration. Furthermore a determined criminal can still overcome these measures. A valid question is whether living under martial law and spending all of this money on police is a good strategy to create a safe, peaceful community both immediately and long term. The solution is complex. I think immediately, we can create police presence at hot spots. Long-term, we need economic and policy-based solutions such as a living wage for everyone, adequate housing, healthcare, community resources, schooling and other structural elements necessary for community well-being.

Integrity

Effective policing does not equate to martial law. Prosecutors and courts that actually did their job effectively are an even more important component.

Ross Petersen

I think the idea of posting a U of C police officer on every corner is impractical and will do little to deter crime. It serves mostly to demonstrate the difference between Hyde Parkers' and the surrounding communities. We have a private police force, and they don't.

You could do something along the lines of a 'Food Not Bombs' weekly gathering, serve up meals, build bridges to the community, use a local Church. More police is Not the answer.

Integrity

I'm sure the shooter at 53rd and Woodlawn would have been stopped by your complex violence reduction strategies. "Martial Law" is a false analogy- hyperbole.

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