Under the lens: DeKalb residents try to stay safe

By Lindsey Salvatelli

Crime Under The Lens is a two-part series that investigates the recent increase of violence in DeKalb and its affect on residents. The first story identified the source of crime, and the second story focuses on residents living in the area with the highest concentration of shooting incidents.


DeKALB — While sitting inside his home on the corner of Greenbrier and Russell Road, senior sociology major Patrick Kreis heard the unmistakable popping sound of a gun being shot and the whizzing sound of the bullets headed in an unknown direction.

“One day, I was leaning up against my window, and I literally just heard gunshots, and I literally rolled off my bed, not knowing if they’re coming toward me or not,” Kreis said.

Kreis’ experience was linked to one of 18 shooting incidents that occurred in DeKalb between Aug. 29, when the semester started, and Oct. 30. NIU Police Chief Thomas Phillips said members of his department along with the DeKalb Police Department are collaborating and discussing ways to handle the incidents.

Data collected regarding peak crime hours throughout the year and offense types influences the frequency of police patrolling in high-crime areas, Phillips said.

“Let’s have additional officers on the street in these areas, so the students not only feel safe, but we have a faster response to these type of incidents,” Phillips said.

Kreis said he recalls a 2016 shooting that received a lot of attention, but he thinks the recent shootings have made more residents concerned about their safety. One example, he said, is how far down Greenbrier Road some sorority members will travel in fear of being struck by stray bullets.

One shooting incident that occurred a week before the start of school had sorority members diving in between cars to avoid being shot, said Kameron DeBoer, Alpha Phi risk manager and junior sculpture major.

“One of the guys walked past our girls and made eye contact,” DeBoer said.

DeBoer said inhabitants of her sorority’s residence, 835 Edgebrook Drive, have fallen victim to burglaries in the past and had concerns about some sexual assaults reported in the area. However, DeBoer had to re-adjust safety plans to fit the recent gun crime spike by ensuring her members aren’t walking alone and securing the facility when shootings occur. A group chat was also created so members of her sorority can respond quicker when a shooting incident occurs and request rides.

“I definitely know my parents want me to transfer and don’t want me here anymore, and they don’t even know what’s been happening on campus in the past few months,” DeBoer said.

Police officials have not released any reports indicating students are intended targets of the gun violence. Rather, the incidents are believed to be drug- and gang-related.

“I don’t think any of us are worried about anyone coming up to us and shooting one of us or anything like that,” Kreis said. “We’re just worried about getting caught in the middle of it, not being the target of it.”

Witness reports are collected by anyone who will talk, regardless of whether they’re NIU-affiliated. When officers inquire about a witness’s affiliation to the campus, it’s done with the intent of providing them with additional resources if they were traumatized by the experience and to “touch base” with the campus community, Phillips said.

“When you have these types of incidents, there’s always an increased fear,” Phillips said. “I do everything I can to ease anxiety of our community surrounding these types of incidents.”

Community acts

The city has focused on enhancing the northwest corridor, the area most affected by the spike in crime, as part of its Annie Glidden Revitalization Plan. The goal is to increase lighting in the area, clean up parks and improve the overall livability of that section of town.

Residents have attended two community meetings to share their opinions about what changes could be made to improve the area.

“I don’t really understand why they feel like building another park or making a better park is going to help something like that; it’s just going to attract more kids there,” said senior sociology major Carlena Foreman. “Then if something happens there, those kids are gone. So I really don’t understand why they do stuff like that.”

During the first meeting, residents expressed concern about lighting throughout the city. Since then, ComEd has been repairing lights, according to a Nov. 6 Northern Star article.

Senior sociology major Tyler Shipon said he thought putting a spotlight in the parking lot of Burritoville, 1026 W. Hillcrest Road, before Halloween weekend served as a good impediment when rumors about a possible shooting to occur at that location began to surface.

DeBoer said she thinks some of the revitalization plans will benefit the community in which she lives, as more streetlights and lit-up storefronts could deter people from committing crimes.

”I know the police are doing the best they can, but it just doesn’t seem right to live in a college town and have to fear leaving your apartments,” DeBoer said.