Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wisconsin's Greeks Take Responsibility for Neighborhood

Fraternities, sororities patrol Langdon to prevent crime
Karen Rivedal, The Wisconsin State Journal

Alarmed by a rise in crime too close to home, UW- Madison's Greek organizations are stepping up to help improve safety with a new neighborhood watch program designed to put more eyes -- and feet -- on Langdon Street.

"Sometimes I worry myself about walking down Langdon at night," said junior Drew Willert, who is helping organize the program. "I try to have eyes (looking) behind my back." And now, if things go well, there really will be more eyes on him.

Every Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., members of fraternities and sororities will walk around the neighborhood in small groups, armed with cell phones, flashlights and reflective gear.If they see any trouble, they're supposed to call police.

Madison Police officer Tony Fiore, the area's neighborhood officer since January, provided his personal cell-phone number for a quick response, said Willert, whose fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, took the inaugural shift Friday.

"But I can't say that if something immediate and desperate were happening that people wouldn't try to do what they could," said Willert, a finance and real estate major.

UW-Madison's 11 sororities and 20-plus fraternities became concerned about safety on Langdon -- where many of their 2,000 members live -- after several attacks on students and others in the area this spring and summer.

The crimes have included about a dozen muggings of male students on their way home from bars and a severe beating of a 20-year-old female student who was followed by a man into her apartment building in the 100 block of Langdon in August.

Megan Kurzeka and members of her sorority, Delta Delta Delta, live next to the building where the assault happened.

Participating in the watch program is one way students can take action to help protect themselves and the non- student residents of Langdon, Kurzeka noted."It's important because it's not the same atmosphere this year on Langdon," she said. "People just don't feel as comfortable and safe."

Beyond the watch, sororities are offering self-defense classes to their members in December, and members of both fraternities and sororities hope to convince the city to add more lighting in the 100 and 200 block of Langdon.

Fiore, who helped come up with the idea for a neighborhood watch, said he was proud to see the organizations lending a hand."They're amazing," he said. "They're putting a lot of effort and passion into it and they're really committed to the safety of the neighborhood."Copyright (c) 2006, The Wisconsin State Journal