Howard students and area residents experienced a shock when Jamal Coates, an area high school senior, was shot and killed in September on U Street, just blocks away from the Howard University campus, after leaving the funeral of a friend.
Students recently experienced another shock when a string of armed robberies struck at homes occupied by students, within a few blocks of the university’s main campus.
Because of the recent incidents that have taken place close to Howard’s campus, students have been questioning their safety at universities in the Washington area.
Howard’s campus is no stranger to crime, the most common being theft, according to a Howard University Police Department official. Last year, 27 on-campus robberies were reported. This, plus the recent incidents that have taken place near Howard’s campus, leave students questioning their safety on campus and in the surrounding area.
Other area universities have reported issues with crime as well.
The George Washington University Daily Crime Log shows that at least 45 robberies were reported to the University Police Department since January, with the majority of the incidents involving purse snatches or pick pocketing.
To combat crime at Howard, HUPD has taken steps to help keep students safe while on campus and in the surrounding neighborhood.
The HUPD introduced the Emergency Alert system to notify students of crime via text message.
Campus Escorts is another option for students for students who want to avoid walking across campus alone at night. A student can call the number for Campus Escorts and a van will arrive to pick them up and drop them off at their desired location.
The HUPD also installed blue light systems that are supposed to serve as a direct line to the HUPD at various on-campus locations. When the button is pressed on a blue light, the HUPD is supposed to be alerted. Other schools have implemented this same system as well.
Though the blue light system’s purpose is to arouse a quick response to the HUPD, some Howard students feel that the system is a good idea, but has its flaws.
Freshman Gabrielle Garcia said that because people unnecessarily press the button, the system becomes less effective.
“The emergency buttons are great, and they’re very helpful, but I feel that people aren’t as mature as they should be,” Garcia said. “It’s like basically like the story of when the [boy] cried wolf. You cry wolf so many times and they come. And then when somebody needs it, they don’t come.”
Despite the levels of reported crime at George Washington University and Howard University, not all area schools are experiencing this issue.
George Mason University, located in Fairfax County, had no reported robberies last year, according to the George Mason University Police Department Annual Security Report.
Kenneth Suarez, a freshman computer science major at George Mason University, says that he generally feels safe because, to his knowledge, no big incidents have occurred on his campus.
“I’ve never experienced [campus crime] firsthand,” Suarez said. “I can walk around with a $3,000 laptop at 3 a.m. and not have to worry about it.”
Howard sophomore Christina Howard, however, says she would rather play it safe and travel in groups when moving across campus “As long as I’m with a crowd of people I guess I feel better,” Howard said. “But no matter where you are, you’re always supposed to watch your back.”