Jason Burger, Contributing Writer
If you have been a student at OBU for any reasonable amount of time, you probably have realized that not a whole lot of people hang out in the downtown Shawnee area. Sure, there’s not much to do, and unless you want Hamburger King or Boomerang Diner for lunch, or head to Canterbury on Thursday nights, there’s not much of a reason to go down there.
The lack of businesses in the downtown district of Shawnee is very noticeable, and according to professional photographer and small business owner Ed Bolt, business is just not good.
“We handed out coupons during Welcome Week last year at OBU to get kids to come down [to the studio and coffee shop] and get a free cup of coffee, as a way to try to get the college crowd in the door,” Bolt said. “We maybe had one or two people come in, so now I just use my building space as my photography studio.”
So why is it so hard for businesses in the downtown district? All signs point to crime. As shown on the map provided by the Shawnee Police Department’s web site, the majority of the crime that happens in the city is in or around the south side, right where the downtown area is. Its worth noting that the map only reports crimes that have happened in the last 30 days.
While the majority of the crimes committed in Shawnee seem to be heavily property related, meaning burglary or theft of physical items, what is alarming is that the violent crime rate statistics in our school’s city are much higher than the state of Oklahoma’s average. Oklahoma’s violent crime rate averages at 4.22 incidents per 1000 people, while the city of Shawnee’s rate is 9.11 violent crimes per 1000 people on average.
That might not seem that alarming, but those numbers mean that out of the 31,280 people that live in the Shawnee area, for every 110 people, roughly one will be the victim of a violent crime. Take a look around next time you are in chapel on a Wednesday, because out of the people you see in there, at least a few could be victims.
Going back to the bulk of the crimes being property related, the property crime statistics could also explain why operating a business in downtown Shawnee is not so favorable.
According to crime report statistics from the city, 55.33 property crimes on average are committed per 1000 people. Again, that might not seem that alarming, but the chances of someone being a victim of this kind of crime are way higher than a violent crime.
Business owners and property owners in general have to deal with a one in 18 chance of being hit by a burglar in Shawnee, so it makes sense that businesses would want to stay out of the south side of town, where the chances of their business being robbed or vandalized are the highest. Granted, the property crime statistics factor in burglaries of private houses and vehicles too, not just businesses, but the concern is still obvious.
Its no secret that some sketchy stuff goes down in Shawnee. Ask any local, and they won’t hold back. Drugs are a problem, and overall crime in the city is higher than the state’s averages.
But before anyone freaks out and gets up to deadbolt their dorm room door or heads to Lowes to buy a Brinks Home Security System, take a deep breath. There are neighborhoods that barely see any criminal activity at all. In fact, if you look back at the map, OBU is basically untouched by the outside crime that goes on. For whatever reason, the university seems to be a very safe place. It might simply be because it is on the north side of town. Or, it might be because our campus police officers are certified and trained the exact same way as city officers before they are hired here, and the Shawnee Police Department is not far away at all.
It is obvious from the crime map that OBU continues to be a university that acts as a light in the town’s darkness, and it will probably stay that way.