Think the Daily would report about a student attacked near campus over the weekend? Think again, the Ann Arbor news runs this in their police beat today. Although I’ll note, in my experience as a crime reporter, the Ann Arbor police were notoriously difficult to get information from. The officer assigned to speaking to the media, Sgt. Michael Logghe, rarely returned my calls for an entire semester: I only spoke to the man if I called before 2 PM on a weekday and caught him in his office.

“U-M student reports early morning attack

A University of Michigan student was attacked while walking home near Central Campus early Sunday, city police reports said.

The female student, 20, was walking alone on Oakland Avenue near Tappan about 4 a.m. when she heard someone walking behind her, she told Ann Arbor police.

The woman hid in bushes on the east side of the street and called a friend on a cell phone, asking that person to meet her halfway home, when a man grabbed her shoulders from behind and pushed her to the ground, reports said. The assailant then straddled the woman and tried to muffle her screams by covering her mouth when another man pushed the attacker off. The assailant fled on foot.

The woman did not report any injuries.

She identified the suspect as a white male about 5 feet, 11 inches tall, with messy brown hair. He wore a dark T-shirt and black denim jeans.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Ann Arbor Police tip line at (734) 996-3199.”

What I find interesting from this incident is the “another man” who suddenly appears to thwart what might have been a very bad situation. Although his identity is anonymous, here is a validation of a principal of urbanism theorized by Jane Jacobs: urban safety is ensured by a vibrant, busy sidewalk life where even at 4 AM there are people present to intervene in scary situations like the one described above. (The first full chapter of her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities is “The uses of sidewalks: safety”) Hence, the question of increasing density of development takes on a very practical significance: busy sidewalks prevent crime.

Author: Rob