On Sept. 10, the Easton Avenue Apartments was visited by a strange, albeit, benign man, with a bandage on his arm and a plastic bag full of cups. While he did no harm while inside the building, the idea that any strange man can amble into a building filled with students is not a pleasant one. It is speculated that the man entered by catching a door before it locked. This happens often enough that the police even have a term for it: “tailgating."
The Easton Avenue Apartments incident is not the only troubling case of crime on campus this semester. Since the semester began, at least four crime reports have been emailed out, which comes out to about one per week. Some crime alerts detail theft on campus, others describe muggings or gropings.
What is troubling is that not all crimes that occur on or near campus are reported via the email system. Students have experienced car thefts, catcalling, being followed and more. In fact, students never received an alert about the Easton Avenue Apartments “break-in.”
The Rutgers University Police Department also said they received an email alerting them of the break-in but did not get enough details, suggesting that some students may not know how to properly report incidents.
The amount of criminal happenings on or near campus should be no surprise — New Brunswick has a crime index of 13 out of 100, with 100 being the safest. Your chances of being a victim of a violent crime is 1 out of 189 or 1 out of 38 for property crime. Crime rates on campus are less reported but never zero. With these odds, a lot of students are nervous about walking around campus after dark, and with good reason.
Across all four campuses encompassed by Rutgers—New Brunswick, there are pockets of dimly lit sidewalks, parking lots with no lighting and a general lack of panic buttons. Once you have stepped foot off campus the plot thickens considerably.
Street lights are used sparingly and walks to an off-campus house seem longer after dark. Many students living off-campus feel unsafe at some point during their time at Rutgers. Students resort to keys between their fingers and pepper spray to make them feel safer.
Even though the majority of students have not been personally affected by a crime in New Brunswick, we all live with the threat of danger. It should be noted that the general population of New Brunswick faces the same issue year-round, which is just another reason to reform the way crime is handled in New Brunswick and double down on efforts to make the area safer.
That said, there are quite a few resources Rutgers offers to keep students safe on campus that should be considered. Every year the Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) publishes a more than 100-page report called Safety Matters detailing crime statistics, crime reporting procedures, campus policies and most importantly descriptions of Rutgers crime prevention resources.
While this report is a good way to get information out to students, Rutgers could increase advertising of these services to students through resident assistants, by putting up signage around campus and showing students how to use these services during orientation.
Rutgers offers shuttle buses (like the Knight Mover) and security officer escorts to make commutes across campus safer. There are the Community Policing Unit, civilian walking patrols and Community Service Officers to round out the RUPD force and provide more approachable staff for students to interact with.
While these security measures are well received, there are more measures that Rutgers could take to keep students safe. For example, each on-campus residence hall boasts security, but students claim that the Easton Avenue Apartments’ security was lacking on Sept. 10.
The most straightforward solution to implement is to increase lighting on campus. It was found that “increased levels of lighting led to a 36 percent reduction in ‘index crimes’ — a subset of serious felony crimes that includes murder, robbery and aggravated assault, as well as certain property crimes,” according to a study from the University of Chicago.
Another necessary solution would be to increase the number of panic buttons on campus and make them substantially more visible as well as increasing the number of security cameras on campus. Both of these measures would act as a deterrent to perpetrators of crime. Security cameras in particular would make it easier to follow up on incident reports.
Students can also do more to limit crime on campus and keep each other safe. "If you see something, say something," may be overused, but that is because it works — "more than 10 percent of the documented attempted attacks on public surface transportation systems worldwide were foiled because some individual at the scene saw and reported something suspicious,” according to the Mineta Transportation Institute.
If students commit to keeping an eye out not just for themselves but for each other, perhaps our campus would be safer. Of course, Rutgers must support us in this effort and continue to innovate new solutions to respond to increasing crime reports.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 153rd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.