Within a one-mile radius of campus, there are 70 registered sex offenders, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ website reports.
This figure only consists of those who have been convicted of a sexual offense of which there are three different categories: offender, child sex offender, and sexually violent offender. Out of the 70 living within a mile of Hopkins’s gates, four are labeled offenders, 40 are considered child sex offenders and 26 are branded sexually violent offenders.
“Johns Hopkins University Campus Safety and Security is aware that sexual offenders reside in many areas of Maryland, including areas around campus,” Lt. Mark E. Long, Campus Safety and Security Investigations Section Supervisor wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Yet just how many offenders came as a shock to some students who anticipated lower numbers.
“I was unaware that the figure was that high, but did know there were registered offenders in the area,” Eliza Schultz, head of the Hopkins Feminists, wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “Obviously, one registered sex offender in the area is one too many and is enough to make a person feel insecure in his or her own neighborhood. Seventy, though, is simply alarming,”
Other students were surprised by the composition of the local neighborhood as well.
“As a guy, it is not too concerning, but I can imagine for women it would be very unnerving,” junior Matt Jorgensen wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Freshman Ben Wheeler was equally surprised.
“I thought the area around here was more like students, teachers and staff,” Wheeler said.
However, Wheeler still feels safe on campus.
“Honestly, I would be a lot more afraid ... but Hopkins’s security is solid, so I’m not really that worried about it,” he said.
Hopkins has an extensive process for entering a dorm room, which includes passing security guards, multiple J-Card swipes and locked doors.
“I feel like there’s no fear because Hopkins has figured out how to keep their students secure in a city that has the populations of individuals that cities [historically] have,” freshman Lauren Abrahams said.
Schultz, too, credits Hopkins Safety and Security with creating a safer atmosphere.
“On the one hand, I feel secure around campus and parts of the surrounding area, and for that I can thank security,” Schultz wrote.
Jorgensen lives off-campus and has not experienced any security problems.
“I haven’t felt unsafe walking around, you just have to be smart,” Jorgensen wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “It’d be nice to see more Hopkins security cars driving the side streets at night during the week.”
However, there are still weaknesses in the security system.
“Where the university fails is in providing serious education on what constitutes sexual assault and how to conduct oneself in order not to be a perpetrator of it,” Schultz wrote. “Instead, the one program that addressed it during orientation was entirely flippant. Yes, it is frightening that there are 70 registered offenders in the area. But it is even scarier that the university does the minimum to acknowledge that students are also the perpetrators.”
Schultz also stated that she was aware that assaults have occurred near campus in the past year. In October of 2011, a female undergraduate student was sexually assaulted in an alley that runs behind the Pike and Wawa Fraternities, across from Charles Commons. As recently as January of this year, The Baltimore Sun reported that a man attempted to sexually assault a woman just north of campus.
Still, Hopkins Safety and Security has been successful in protecting the campus and surrounding areas, despite the fact that there is nothing barring registered sex offenders from being on the Hopkins campus.
“Our open university environment allows the free flow of pedestrian traffic in many places,” Long wrote. “We must keep in mind that all individuals, unless prohibited by court order or trespass warning, are allowed to access university property or other adjacent non-campus locations in the community. Remembering this information, students, faculty and staff should utilize a crime prevention mentality to lessen the opportunity of becoming a victim of a crime. This, in combination with Campus Safety and Security’s three tiered level of protection, has proven to be extremely effective in keeping the university and adjacent communities safe.”
In Maryland, there are no restrictions on where sex offenders can reside.
“Information put out by other states has shown that residency restrictions do not help to prevent sexual offenses from occurring because the victims and the offenders, in most situations, know each other,” the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ website reads. “Having ready access to victims, in private and secretive environments, is how sex offenders thrive… Some states, such as Iowa and Florida, have found that residency restrictions can make it very difficult to track sex offenders who have become homeless.”
But some still feel that restrictions should be implemented.
“Ideally there should be restrictions, because I hate to think sex offenders should have the ‘right’ to live wherever they choose. And obviously sexual assault occurs really frequently on college campuses, so that, coupled with our campus being surrounded by outside offenders, is not okay,” Schultz wrote.
At the same time, Schultz explained that Charles Village is better prepared to deal with sex offenders than some other communities might be.
“But in reality, whatever neighborhood these offenders choose to live in will become increasingly dangerous. Certain neighborhoods in Baltimore are not equipped to deal with that, unlike Charles Village, which is at least better equipped to do so,” Schultz wrote.
In 2008, Reader’s Digest ranked Hopkins as the safest university in America.
A community defense against sexual predators is the Sex Offender Registry—a national database of convicted sex offenders mandated by federal law—which educates the public on the locations of past offenders.
“We encourage these searches which allow individuals to educate themselves about their surroundings and to be informed. Tier I, II and III Sex offenders are required by law to register with Maryland law enforcement and provide detailed information including their current address,” Long wrote.
These different tiers indicate the crime for which the offender was convicted, with Tier I being less egregious crimes, and Tier III reserved for the most egregious.
The offender closest to campus that is labeled a sexually violent offender is a Tier III offender, required to stay on the registry for life. The offender, Wendell Muldrow Jr., was convicted in 1997 of Rape in the Second Degree. The offender who is closest to campus overall is also a Tier III offender convicted of Rape in the Second Degree. This offender, John Benjamin Lawson, was convicted in 2002 and is classified as a child sexual offender.
The number of offenders surrounding Hopkins is much higher than neighboring Loyola Maryland University and Towson University. Loyola has 28 registered offenders within a one-mile radius of the center of its campus; Towson has just nine within one-mile of its center of campus.
“It’s a little worrying, but I don’t think it should get in the way of our everyday lives,” freshman Nina Yanagisawa said.
Abrahams concurred, explaining that being conscientious is really the only defense for students attending college in an urban environment.
“I just think that wherever you are, there are going to be possible predators and people who don’t have your best interests at heart, and you just have to be defensive in your lifestyle,” Abrahams said.