East Campus residents petition for more streetlights

After several recent sexual assaults occurring in the area, junior Sarah Sprick said, East Campus residents feel unsafe.
Ben Kothe / Graphic Designer

Whenever junior Sarah Sprick leaves her house on East Campus, she carries pepper spray and holds her keys clenched in her hand. She walks with a friend when possible and sometimes has 911 dialed into her phone.

East Campus has been the site of multiple recent burglaries and sexual assaults, and Sprick said she believes adding streetlights to the dim sidewalks east of MU may reduce crimes.

“I feel unsafe every time I leave my house,” Sprick said. “Everyone who lives here knows someone whose car or house has been broken into, or who has been attacked or threatened.”

Sprick began circulating a petition Dec. 1 to add streetlights on East Campus, especially on Anthony Street, the site of a Sept. 13 sexual assault. Sprick said she currently does not know how many signatures the petition has, or which government body she will submit it to.

“It’s crazy how inadequate the lights there are,” she said. “Sure, you can stand underneath one and have light, but if you walk just a few feet away, it’s dark again. I believe the majority of lights have not been updated in decades.”

Connie Kacprowicz, Columbia Water and Light spokesperson, said the department has funds reserved for installing and updating streetlights, but usually waits to do so until there is initiative from the community.

“Street lighting is really a community decision,” Kacprowicz said. “As long as we have the budget to do it, we’re fine with adding a street light, but we don’t want to be in a situation where the neighborhood then wants us to take it down.”

Kacprowicz said the city has installed streetlights before on South Forum Boulevard, and residents then petitioned to remove the new lights because the lights interfered with neighborhood character and the ability to see the night sky.

“Some residents want to keep the old lights, or have no lights, but I don’t really see how old lights preserve the town,” Sprick said. “If updating the lights will prevent even one assault and crime, I see that as a priority over preserving poor lighting.”

Anne Case-Halferty, a homeowner in East Campus, said she believes residents should consider other precautions before updating street lights. She pointed out that many burglaries occur because doors aren’t locked, locks are broken or landlords haven’t fixed burned-out lights.

“You can’t expect East Campus to be as well-lit as campus or Greek Town,” Case-Halferty said. “You shouldn’t hold it to a different standard than other residential areas just because there is a high percentage of students living here. There’s a lot of different factors that contribute to safety and streetlights are only part of it.”

Case-Halferty said that since East Campus is a residential area, sidewalks may never be brightly lit.

Case-Halferty suggested that taking preventative measures may be more helpful than flooding the area with lights. In addition to considering new streetlights she said residents should also check that they are currently behaving safely and responsibly — walking at night in pairs, carrying pepper spray and ensuring that their homes and apartments have working locks and lights.

"Safety is a concern of anyone living in the area. Everyone wants to live in a safe neighborhood, and lighting is a part of that," Case-Halferty said.

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