CLEVELAND — Katherine Ives is still trying to emotionally recover from a Dec. 19 carjacking in Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood and believes the effort to expand Case Western Reserve University and University Circle police jurisdiction could improve neighborhood and campus safety.
The 21-year-old Case student was the first of four carjacking victims in Little Italy in just a 10-day period. Police said the person charged with holding Ives at gunpoint was just 14-years-old.
"He grabbed my sides, and I turned around and he had a gun pointed at my stomach," Ives said. “I don’t ever think I’ve seen a gun so close to me in my entire life.”
“The whole thing just made me really reflect that we live in a society where someone so young could commit a crime as horrible as that and that the environment that they must have been in and they felt like they had to, that’s been really tough.”
The legislation would give officers of University Circle expanded jurisdiction to East 123rd Street and Edge Hills Road in Cleveland.
Cleveland City Council approved legislation on May 9 that would allow Case Western Reserve University and University Circle police forces to expand their territorial jurisdictions within the City of Cleveland and outside the property of the university and east of University Circle in Little Italy.
Cleveland Safety Committee Chairman Michael Polensek agreed the goal is to increase public safety presence on campus, but said more must be done citywide to reduce juvenile crime, especially with the Cleveland Police department down 245 officers on the street, from 1640 officers approved in the city budget.
“Juvenile crime and violence in general, it’s of great concern to me," Polensek said. “It’s great to have that intense coverage around the universities.”
“But citywide you better have a contingency plan going into the summer. Does that contingency plan utilize Ohio Highway Patrol officers more to do traffic? I’m hoping they’re talking to the county with regard to utilizing sheriff’s deputies in some capacity. Does every position at the justice center have to be held by a CPD officer, can we civilianize some of those positions? The City of Cleveland and division of police have to be more creative than ever before because we’re dealing with less people.”
Under the plan, which still has to be signed by Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, police officers with Case Western Reserve University would have an expanded jurisdiction which would include Little Italy and a portion of the police Fifth District from East 105th Street to East 120th Street between Wade Park and Ashbury Avenue. The legislation would give officers of University Circle expanded jurisdiction to East 123rd Street and Edge Hills Road in Cleveland.
Interim Case Western Public Safety Director Megan Koeth told News 5 that the expanded jurisdiction is needed to accommodate a growing number of students.
“We are so grateful that city council approved the request," Koeth said. “As our student population grows, our students are moving further and further away from campus. Every year we’re adding on another 1,000 to our incoming class.”
“It’s just allowing us to go a little further on the north, a little further on the south, we’re also going to be able to assist the residents for calls that Cleveland asks us to. We're also adding more blue emergency phones on campus and improved lighting. On the Case property, we'll trim trees, replace light bulbs that are broken, because the staff that manages them mostly aren't here at night time to see that the lights are not working. And then if we need to work with the City of Cleveland or Cleveland Public power to work on the lights that are on their poles.”
Meanwhile, Ives said her carjacking experience taught her a valuable life lesson.
“Overall I would just be more aware of my surroundings," Ives said. "I had my phone in my hand, I was just rushing, I was excited to go home for Christmas break, I think I was just really distracted. And now every time I get out of a car it’s very purposeful, I’m looking around for me, I’m looking for other people.”
"I think the expanded jurisdiction will help as long as the Case police are held to the same standards. I think it could be a positive thing, they just have to be good police officers.”