Subscribe for 33¢ / day

Before Monday's police standoff at a home on Fourth Street in Charleston was even concluded, critics began to harp.

At least on the JG-TC Facebook page, from some the mantra was, "It's EIU's fault!" They blame Eastern Illinois University and its students for a crime situation before even knowing any facts about the event.

Cut it out!

This is ridiculous. Some people's knee-jerk reaction in our local communities is to blame EIU for allegedly bringing miscreants to town, degrade Eastern students and decry the alleged "downhill slide" of the university that some contend is leading to a higher crime rate in Charleston.

In many cases, that's just not true, and in all cases, it's just not that simple.

Of course university students sometimes are arrested for committing a crime. So are plenty of "townies." The Monday standoff did involve one person who was a former EIU student, according to police. It's worth noting that no one yet has been arrested for a crime related to that incident.

But what does a person's status as a student have to do with being allegedly involved in criminal activity? Will some people suddenly start blaming a particular church in town for all auto accidents in Charleston if one of their members gets a speeding ticket?

Blaming Eastern for a very small percentage of its students getting into trouble is just as ridiculous.

Eastern has been part of the Charleston community for decades. Chicago natives -- who some locally try to give a bad reputation simply because of their hometown -- have attended the university for almost as long. It's just plain inaccurate and sadly simplistic to try to pin most of the city's crime on people from a certain geographical location.

When it comes to blaming students, facts are not on the naysayers' side. Multiple studies have found that people with a high school diploma versus those without one are less likely to be involved in criminal activity. The same goes for those with a college education versus those without. Higher education actually correlates to lower crime rates.

Yes, there is crime in Charleston. But the campus and town are notably safe.

In fact, the city has been hailed for its safe environment. SafeWise named Charleston No. 2 of its 2016 Safest College Towns in America.

EIU brings a lot to Charleston, and any negatives related to the university are far outweighed by the positives. The quality of education, culture opportunities, employment, economic contributions by students and faculty and staff that support local businesses, and much more combine to keep Eastern the fine institution it long has been.

Now, we're not saying the town is Mayberry.

In a different kind of ranking, SafeWise selected Charleston as No. 27, down from No. 18 the previous year, among the 50 Safest Cities in Illinois in 2017 (Mattoon didn't make the list.).

And EIU students are involved in crimes. Just in May, a student was shot and killed at a party in Charleston in an as-yet-unsolved incident.

But it's certainly unfair to relate all the crime in the city to EIU and/or EIU students, or to students who originate from a particular city.

Residents have to remember -- these are not the 1950s, or the '60s, or the '70s, or whatever decade for which you may be nostalgic. It's not realistic to leave car doors and houses unlocked and expect no one to take advantage. Most of the crimes seen in this area are petty. Yet we now live in a world of mass shootings, a time in which criminals use automobiles to kill innocents, and no major city, at least, is immune to terrorism.

Still, Charleston remains outside of that world thus far, thankfully, with violent crime incredibly low. We wish there was no violence at all, ever, in our communities, but certainly EIU can't be blamed for the actions of people who may or may not be students at the university.

We applaud law enforcement personnel for handling Monday's incident well and bringing it to a peaceful end. And when it comes to blanket statements about crime and some residents' attitudes in Charleston, we have a simple request:

Stop blaming Eastern.

-- JG-TC Editorial Board


Load comments