Robberies Increasing At UMd. College Park
Oct 9, 2006
(AP) College Park, MD A 21-year-old student told police he was robbed at gunpoint early Thursday morning at the Graduate Hills Apartments, marking the 16th on-campus robbery and outpacing the same number recorded last year.
WJZ's Mike Schuh has the latest on the robberies, which have outnumbered the amount of reports made by this time last year.
By this point last year, 15 on-campus robberies had been reported to the University Police and a total of 18 were reported for the entire year. It was the largest number of robberies in 18 years, according to University Police spokeswoman Maj. Cathy Atwell.
"It means we have work to do," Atwell said. "We will stem this tide."
The student left his Graduate Hills apartment at 1 a.m. Thursday to find cell phone service, said Linda Clement, vice president for student affairs.
"The victim said he was sitting on a picnic table when he noticed two individuals walking toward him from Stanford Road," Atwell said. "He didn't pay much attention to the individuals because he was talking on his cell phone."
The student told police that as the men walked toward him, one pointed a black handgun at him and the other hit him on the head, causing him to fall, Atwell said. The men demanded his money. He didn't have any money with him, but they took his cell phone.
Prince George's County Police were the first to respond and called the University Police, Atwell said. A county canine unit tracked the two men until the scent stopped around the corner on Stanford Road.
Atwell said there have been a number of robberies at the Graduate Hills Apartments, located at the intersection of Campus Drive and Adelphi Road, in the past. The University Police added a number of emergency phones and put cameras in the area for the first time over the summer, she said.
Leigh Martinez, a graduate student in the speech language pathology program, said she felt safe when she moved into Graduate Hills apartment last year, but her sense of security has since faded. "I'm looking forward to the day when I can afford to move out," Martinez said.
Martinez said she thought she would be fine even though she would be coming back to her apartment late at night because she had a car and didn't have to use the Metro, but now she's not so sure. "I still have to park and walk in - It's scary," Martinez said.
Abbas Afshar, a civil engineering graduate student, moved into a Graduate Hills apartment two years ago and said he has noticed an increased police presence around the apartments. "They are here, but obviously it's not stopping [crime] from happening," Afshar said.
Afshar blamed the area for the high amount of crime. The apartments are not far from Langley Park, a high-volume crime area west of campus.
"The whole thing about this complex is it's not surrounded. There's no fence," Afshar said. "Anyone who wants can come in," Afshar said. "The problem I guess is you can't do anything about the neighborhood. The neighborhood's still the neighborhood."
Kyle Gustafson, vice president of student affairs for the Graduate Student Government, said the private company who runs Graduate Hills, Southern Management Corporation, seemed responsive to the idea of adding a security gate for the apartment complex. But the idea hit a snag when SMC said a study on the effect on traffic flow would have to be done first.
Some drivers will drive through the apartment complex to avoid the light at the intersection of Adelphi Road and University Boulevard, Atwell said.
SMC was in the news last year when Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson named two of their properties along with 16 others as a source of crime in the county, according to The Washington Post. Johnson threatened to tear down the complexes if they didn't adopt stronger safety measures and weren't brought up to code.
Gustafson said the Graduate Hills apartments are much more rundown than buildings on the campus and SMC does not set the same standards as the university.
"Southern Management responds to requests for assistance or advice, and they always do what they can to make things better, but I've never seen they've gone the extra mile," Gustafson said. "They do what's required and stop there."
SMC was not available for comment.