Greek Row sees vandalism

Junior business major Joe Moczydlowski, a member of Phi Kappa Theta, explains the fraternity’s new security system Thursday night at their house 910 W. Hillcrest Drive.

By David Matz and Alex Fiore

Imagine a Saturday night in DeKalb at home with a couple of friends hanging out and listening to some loud music.

Now, imagine that a large group of angry strangers start throwing bottles at the house, breaking windows and attempting to force entry through the front door, just because they think there’s a party inside.

A similar scenario appeared at the front doors of the Sigma Pi fraternity house, 1114 Blackhawk Road, after the first NIU home football game this semester.

“That was the first time we ever had anyone try to break into the house or have a major property crime committed against our house,” said Markus Cameron, Sigma Pi risk management chair.

A group of people tried to force their way into Sigma Pi fraternity house that night, but none were able to get inside the building, Cameron said. The mob did manage to break a window and damage the front doors before dispersing away from the house, Cameron said.

DeKalb Police Chief Bill Feithen said no one has been charged in the incident.

There have been other reports of property damage on Greek Row this semester.

“We’re definitely on the lookout now, we’re more aware now and pay attention to people walking by,” said Mohammed Aqel, Sigma Pi public relations chair. “To stop this from happening again, we made new rules, like not playing loud music after dark outside.”

Sigma Pi is not the only Greek house to change their security measures in response to the increased reports and stories of crime in the Greek Row area. Most fraternities and sororities feel a general malaise has spread over Greek Row’s idea of safety and security.

“Last year I felt safe walking alone on Greek Row, but this year I just don’t feel as safe,” said Samantha Dawson, Alpha Phi director of finance.

After hearing about more stories and knowing people that have been jumped on Greek Row, Dawson began to question the amount of security in the area.

At the weekly Interfraternity Council (IFC) meetings, some members have traded stories of break-ins and other types of crime in the area, said Nik Champion vice president of public relations for the IFC and a senior finance major. Champion himself even admits feeling an increased amount of crime on Greek Row.

Champion said he spent all four years of his college career living in DeKalb and feels that crime has risen since his freshmen year. The sentiment that crime, mainly damage to houses and cars, has risen in recent years is consistent among fraternity and sorority members.

In response to the rising tide of property crime, some fraternities and sororities are considering taking house security to the next level.

On top of normal house security like exterior door locking systems, alarm systems and sober monitors or using the buddy system at night, many fraternities and sororities plan to install another security feature, security cameras.

Phi Sigma Kappa and, more recently, Phi Kappa Theta have already installed a working security camera system to deter and catch criminals on their property.

“We just wanted to put them in there for safety,” said Jeremy Wicklund, Phi Sigma Kappa president. “It was more of a crime deterrent.”

Phi Kappa Theta worked with their landlord and invested over $1,000 to install security cameras on the exterior of their house, said Alan Radevski, Phi Kappa Theta president.

“Phi Sigs took that initiative first, and now we’re jumping on that too,” Radevski said. “It wouldn’t be a bad idea for other chapters to do the same thing.”

Other houses have also recently started looking into adding security cameras.

“We’ve been talking with a security company to see the possibilities of putting up security cameras on the house,” Dawson said.

Tom Zeiger, Delta Upsilon vice president and public relations chair said his fraternity is thinking about investing in security cameras as well.

“We are talking with alumni about incurring some of the cost,” Zeiger said.

After the mob incident, Sigma Pi is also planning to add security cameras to their house soon, Aqel said.

“It’s never been seen as something that was necessary until about this year,” Cameron said.

The DeKalb City Police Department’s 2009 Annual Crime Report shows crime is highly concentrated in the Greek Row area compared to other areas of DeKalb.

According to the report, the violent crime trend has been decreasing since 2006. On page 38 of the report, a map shows a strong concentration of violent crime incident reports occurred west of Normal Road, the same area that includes Greek Row.

In the same report, the property crime trend has risen from 1,347 incident reports in 2008 to 1,465 incidents reported in 2009. The report also shows that a large amount of these incident reports occurred west of Normal Road and along Hillcrest Drive.

“From reading the daily reports, there hasn’t been any noticeable or drastic trends,” Feithen said. “Nothing would appear out of the ordinary.” He said according to an August 2010 monthly report, part 1 crimes, which include robbery and battery, reports show a 12.9 percent decrease in all of DeKalb.

Although the facts show in 2009 the property crime trend has risen by 118 incidents in the Greek Row area, some Greek members said they don’t feel the individuals committing the crimes are seeking out to harm Greek houses specifically.

“I don’t think we’re being targeted,” Radevski said. “I just think crime in general is up.”

He also said he feels that police patrol Greek Row and fraternities differently.

“I feel that sometimes [fraternities] get overlooked because there is a stereotype attached to being a fraternity house,” Radevski said.

DeKalb Police Lt. Gary Spangler said, that Greek Row isn’t patrolled any less than other areas in DeKalb.

“There’s a lot of foot traffic up [near Greek Row] which requires more attention,” Spangler said. “There’s a high concentration of the population in that small area. Higher population density requires more attention.”

NIU Police Sgt. Alan Smith also said officers don’t treat Greek Row any differently than other areas.

“We maintain our normal patrol routes,” Smith said. He said he couldn’t comment on the students feeling that crime has risen in the Greek Row area. The NIU Police Department started assisting the DeKalb Police in patrolling the areas surrounding campus.

Compared to the fraternities on Greek Row, the few that are located off the main drag of Greek Row feel more secure.

“We’re conveniently located off of Greek Row,” said Jeremy Peters, Phi Kappa Psi president. “Most of the problems that happen on Greek Row tend to stay there.”

Peters said their house, at 115 N. Annie Glidden Road, hasn’t experienced any major damage this semester. Last year, the house had some minor incidences involving theft and vandalism, but “that’s going to happen every semester,” Peters said. “We’re looking into a security system to kind of thwart any dangers.”

The fact that fraternities and sororities are beginning to take security measures into their own hands resonates well with Smith.

“It’s definitely a good thing to have security cameras on buildings,” Smith said. “Just posting signs telling people they’re being recorded is also a great way to deter people.”

Smith also said if people follow general safety tips, including locking doors and windows and using a buddy system when walking, can greatly reduce the chance of being a victim of crime.

Radevski said he hopes that potential criminals are now aware that the situation has changed on Greek Row.

“Houses are starting to take initiative and getting security cameras,” Radevski said. “So you are being watched if you decide to come and try to be destructive on our property.”

Editor’s note: Markus Cameron is a non-newsroom employee of the Northern Star.