During the last week of winter break around 4 p.m. on Jan. 16, all of our phones and emails buzzed. The university alerted us about the attempted abduction of a female around the intersection of Ordean Court. When a friend told me, I really thought that there was a possibility she might have been kidnapped before reading my text message. Students, like myself, who pass Ordean Court almost everyday for school, know that the intersection is awkwardly placed. The curved roads makes it hard for students to tell whether or not a car is turning, pulling into a parking lot or just driving straight ahead. Sometimes the large school vehicles will also park on the side and deliver something or begin construction, so it is hard to tell whether or not the place looks suspicious at all. It probably didn’t look like anything out of the ordinary when a black SUV appeared around the area. The UMD Police reminded us in the email that we should practice personal safety. But aside from the cardinal rule our parents taught us — don’t enter a stranger’s car — what else can we do besides report a strange incident?
There is also something really careless about a lot of students (myself included) when they are walking to or from school. We don’t usually pay attention to anything like that: a van parked on the side of the road or circling around a cul-de-sac can seem harmless. We just see the path that takes us to our destination. Sometimes people don’t even look both ways when they are crossing the street, expecting drivers to always stop for pedestrians.
It’s not just at school that people don’t care. I see it downtown or at the mall — basically everywhere. Duluth is generally a small city and the wintertime keeps people inside so there is not much activity going on. The UMD campus is like a very small city within Duluth — the school is surrounded by student apartments and streets filled with off-campus housing. Most of our ‘threats’ are recapped in a fairly small column in the paper’s Crime Beat. Students are used to the low crime rate here and so it’s hard to know what to keep safe from.
Security sometimes roams the streets at night, but that’s mostly during events like homecoming when they know there can be rowdy activities. On any other day, the streets remain desolate when 10 p.m. hits. There are few people out walking, but even during the weekends the nights are quiet. It was a similar time last year when a girl who was heavily intoxicated froze outside because no one was there to open the door for her or see her waiting outside of the house. We get hyped up about issues like these where safety is concerned but unfortunately, people soon forget about it.
The streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul are not always a place of comfort at night. Having been in Duluth for almost 3 years now, I am relieved that the crime rate around our campus is low enough to feel comfortable walking home by myself at night. But the incident at Ordean Court did raise some awareness that even in the safest place, there should always be caution. The man who attempted to abduct this girl made no effort to hide in the dark and his confidence is a major wake-up call to all of us.
But the event was so confusing, because how can we respond to it? Students have an obligation to keep themselves safe, but their expectation of having a safe environment means that they won’t constantly be on alert. That can’t be wrong — it can only be reasonable to expect so much.
BY CINDY VU Columnist