The peace of mind University of Nebraska-Lincoln students might feel when walking alone in downtown Lincoln — sometimes late at night — can be a blessing and a curse.
For all the hundreds of Lincolnites who stumble home safely after a night of drinking at a downtown bar, there’s surely someone passed out on a sidewalk, bleeding after a bar fight or even knocked out after being struck by a passing car while biking home.
Sure, the crime situation in the capital city could be worse. Students from Chicago, Kansas City and even nearby Omaha realize as much. Residents of these Midwestern cities are well-versed on which neighborhoods to find safe entertainment in and which ones to, if possible, avoid (though avoiding crime in Chicago is starting to seem more impossible by the day).
But crime in Lincoln is more complicated. With UNL students, young professionals and the varying levels of wealth dispersed throughout the city, illicit activity in Lincoln is not only harder to map, it’s harder to predict.
A 2010 study by the Center for Public Integrity showed students are notorious for neglecting to report crime. The report stated that 95 percent of rapes on college campuses are not reported to police. Lincoln residents should be wary of the fact that, despite Lincoln’s reputation as a safe haven for college students – a mid-sized city with that small-town feel — assaults, rapes and even murders occur within the capital city’s borders. Students often suffer the moral dilemma of witnessing crimes at parties and deciding whether to report them, especially when it involves their friends.
However, they can encourage a reduction in crime by ensuring that police have accurate numbers on the books. Lincoln’s somewhat-sparse police force, with 1.22 officers per 1,000 citizens, has been shown to efficiently protect city residents with the resources it has. But law enforcement is not perfect. And crime is, frankly, unpredictable.
Students should feel comfortable in Lincoln, knowing crime in the capital is relatively low compared with the situation nationwide.
But they should walk the city’s streets with the caution they’d need anywhere else.