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Apartment Residents Decry Crime

Students living in Courtyard want more security
By Jared A. Favole

February 02, 2005 - When a crime alert went out last week detailing two robberies within 500 yards of her apartment, University Courtyard resident Lindsay Hughes didn’t bat an eyelash.

“At first, I was just like ‘oh another crime alert,’” the junior sociology major said.

Like many residents, Hughes said she had become accustomed to hearing of crimes in the area, a circumstance that makes local police even more concerned.

The two robberies, following others in the area that occurred just a few weeks before, prompted University Police to boost security with more frequent patrols around the apartments and discuss adding a security gate, said police spokesman Maj. Paul Dillon.

On Friday about 6 p.m., two suspects robbed a girl, stole her car, and within minutes robbed another student. The suspects tried a carjacking a few minutes later in Hyattsvile. Investigations are pending.

Many Courtyard residents said the lack of security is common knowledge. But as the crime reports pile up, some say it’s beginning to dawn on them that they may be in danger.

“It doesn’t hit you unless it happens to you or someone you know,” said Davian Bryan, a senior finance major. “I wouldn’t think that security is the best around here.”

University Police officials said they are aware of the security problems and met with managers of the apartment complex last weekend to discuss potential security changes. Later this week, management, police officials and residents are planning a community meeting to discuss safety tips and hear student reaction.

Dillon said proposed changes include adding Student Police Aides and installing a security gate to the entrance off Greenmeade Drive that would be accessible only with student IDs. Dillon said only one of the two entrances needs a gate to deter criminals from entering the property, because part of the appeal to criminals is the ability to come in through one entrance and leave through the other.

Hughes said she originally moved to the apartments because they were touted as safer than other off-campus housing, a selling point that helped persuade her parents to let her move there.

Though frequent crimes quickly clued her in that the area wasn’t as safe as she’d believed, she said she wasn’t actually concerned until a few of her male friends were hesitant to walk to her apartment.

“It makes me realize where we live,” she said. “It’s kind of scary.”


Students robbed at gunpoint

By Michael Kan, Daily News Editor

February 02, 2005 - Two University students were robbed at gunpoint early yesterday morning by three masked men who invaded their house on Hill Street and stole several personal belongings.

The Ann Arbor Police Department is currently investigating the crime, but as of yet, the AAPD has not named any suspects, Srgt. Richard Kinsey said. He added that the crime may be connected to a recent string of burglaries in the area.

“We are looking into that possibility, but anything is possible. The most important thing is that this is very unusual. Home robberies like these are very uncommon,” Kinsey said.

Art and Design sophomores Tom and Willa, who did not want to release their last names, said they were sitting at their kitchen table when three armed men entered through the unlocked back door of their home at around 2 a.m. Both said they did not sustain any injuries.

Tom said they first heard the handle of the backdoor rattle, adding that the robbers were most likely testing if the door was locked.

One of the robbers then entered through the door, followed by two others who were all dressed in black with bandanas tied across their faces, he said.

Assuming the noise at the door was a housemate, Willa was approaching the door while Tom was talking on his cell phone when they both noticed the three men were armed with handguns, he said.

One of the armed men ordered Tom to shut off his phone as the robbers surrounded Tom and Willa.

The men then took off with the valuables on the kitchen table, stealing two laptops, two cell phones, a digital camera and a wallet, Tom said.

Immediately after the armed men left, Tom said he used the cell phone of a housemate living upstairs to call the police, who arrived just one minute later.

“All of our work, our valuables are just gone now,” Willa said.

Both Tom and Willa said they believe that the robbers targeted their house because the blinds were open, allowing the interior of their home to be viewed from the outside.

As a result, the robbers then could have easily planned a strategy to rob the house, Tom said.

Law School student Matthew George, who lives a few houses away and has visited the house before, said the robbers probably scouted out the premise beforehand.

Most student houses are structured like apartment buildings, with narrow hallways and small spaces, making them difficult to rob, he said.

But in the case of the house that was robbed yesterday morning, the interior is like a normal house, with open rooms and wide spaces that make it an ideal target for robbers, George said.

As a precaution, the University released a crime alert yesterday, warning students to protect themselves by locking their doors and walking with a trusted friend when outside.

Crime alert

- A house in the 500 block of Hill Street was robbed at about 2:05 a.m. yesterday.

- Three subjects entered the house with handguns and stole personal belongings from the occupants.

- Call AAPD at 994-2880 or DPS at 763-1131 with information about the burglary.


Second Hopkins murder in a year underscores city's crime problem

BRIAN WITTE

Associated Press

BALTIMORE - Jan. 31, 2005 - It's the nation's most prestigious medical research institute, endowed with about $1.9 billion in government and private funding. But Johns Hopkins University also has become a place where it's easy to find victims of crime.

Even during the school's recent winter break, when a trickle of students stop by a library coffee shop, it doesn't take long to hear about areas around the university's Baltimore campus that change radically after dark. Students describe a renowned institution of higher learning besieged by crime that spills over from nearby areas.

"I've had friends mugged at gunpoint," said Michelle Slater, a 30-year-old graduate student whose apartment was broken into during her first year at the university. "It's really shocking."

The killing of a Hopkins senior Jan. 23 has underscored the sense of vulnerability students feel in a city where there has been virtually a murder a day since the beginning of the new year.

Linda Trinh, 21, became the second Hopkins student murdered in nearby off-campus housing in less than a year. She was found in her apartment Jan. 23 across the street from the Homewood campus that about 4,000 students occupy daily. No arrests have been made, and police said the killing by asphyxiation of the popular student from Silver Spring, Md., appeared to be one of "opportunity."

Students, many just returning from winter break, planned a rally Monday night in front of university President William Brody's home to encourage school officials to beef up security.

University officials have been working to address security concerns for the growing campus in a tough urban setting since last April when a security consultant made his first visit to Johns Hopkins.

A week later, 20-year-old Christopher Elser was dead, stabbed to death in a random act of violence by an intruder inside an apartment house that had been rented to members of his fraternity. Elser's murderer also hasn't been found, and his family has offered a reward for information leading to an arrest.

"I don't feel safe anywhere around here," said Todd Smith, an undergraduate whose car was stolen near the campus.

On Monday afternoon Hopkins announced stepped-up security measures, including hiring off-duty Baltimore police officers to patrol the Charles village neighborhood at night and overnight. The officers will be in the municipal police uniforms, armed, and will patrol on foot and in vehicles.

The university will also contract with a security agency to provide foot patrols near campus, and the agency will also staff the security desks at two off campus apartment complexes.

The university is speeding up plans to install surveillance cameras, a suggestion by iXP Corp., the consultant hired by Hopkins to make the campus more secure. Plans call for installing cameras on campus as well as at off-campus areas with heavy student traffic.

The school is exploring other measures to bolster security and already has improved lighting and an emergency telephone system on campus, Dennis O'Shea, a spokesman for the university said.

Students have noticed improvements at nearby off-campus apartments where doormen have been hired.

But a sustained and intensive effort, like those at some other schools, will be needed to bring about permanent changes.

The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, which was shaken by two murders just off campus in the mid-1990s, embarked on a large, long-term initiative that included partnerships with neighborhood leaders and residents to revive West Philadelphia.

Penn has 62 video cameras to monitor streets, and as many as seven people to operate the cameras from a control room.

"It's very intensive," said Maureen Rush, vice president for public safety at the university, where she noted that crime has fallen drastically in recent years.

The University of Southern California also uses community outreach programs to help fight crime around its south-central Los Angeles campus.

"We have actually embraced the surrounding community because so many of our students live there," said Gloria Graham, who oversees the crime prevention and community education unit at the university.

Spelman College in downtown Atlanta, literally, is a gated community, Renita Mathis, a spokeswoman for the historically black woman's college said.

"People who enter onto Spelman's campus come through a gate, and at that gate we have police officers who check to see if cars have either a faculty or student ID or if they are on campus for work-related or meeting-related things," she said.

O'Shea said Johns Hopkins has been engaged with community-building projects for years.

Kip Elser, Christopher's father, said he hopes local officials and the university will work together to keep students safe in a city that has changed drastically since he attended the school in the early 1970s. Elser noted that his son and Trinh were both murdered inside apartments, not while walking dangerous streets after dark.

"For an environment to exist where someone walks into a house with the intent of robbing and being willing to murder someone, that doesn't change the fact that that is an environmental problem in the city," Elser, of Camden, S.C., said. "If somebody gets mugged for walking down the street, maybe that's the kid's fault for not paying attention, not going together (with someone). But to be asleep in your bed?"

Earlier this month, not far from the Charles Village neighborhood near the university, a woman who has been outspoken and helpful to police against drug dealers was forced to relocate after her home was firebombed. Six people were arrested in connection with the crime.

Students say they are aware of the city's dangers, and they know the university is trying to make the campus more secure.

"I feel like the school is extremely vigilant," Slater said. "We do try to be careful, but I think there's only so much you can do."

The university has security orientation programs for freshmen and transfer students and provides programs for students who move off campus. The university underscores the difference between living on campus, where students need identification cards to get into buildings, and living off-campus, when students sometimes only need a key.

"We do understand they are changing environments," O'Shea said. "It's a significant change. That is a transitional thing that people need to get used to when they go into off-campus housing."

 

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