To most Hopkins students, Campus Security’s Incident Report emails are the norm. Several times a week, students receive brief statements regarding thefts or robberies on and around campus. The emails tend to have a similar theme: theft of unattended laptops and phones on the lower levels of the library or off campus on St. Paul.
Lieutenant Mark Long, director of Investigations for Campus Safety and Security, believes that local crime in the Hopkins patrol area has remained relatively low with some exceptions.
“This past summer Baltimore City as well as the Charles Village area experienced an increase in street robberies, including the Aug. 28 robbery of four Hopkins students in the 3500 Blk of N. Charles Street,” Long wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
On freshmen move-in day alone, four female undergraduates heading southbound on the east side of North Charles were approached by two men who demanded their cell phones and wallets.
Sophomore Ellie Kuivila, one of the girls in the group, described what happened.
“Basically, the four of us were walking down North Charles toward CharMar, and then right outside of the Baptist Church we got approached by two guys with guns and knives and got robbed,” Kuivila said.
“Right after it happened I noticed that Hopkins was doing a lot,” Kuivila said. “They put up more street lights and increased security around North Charles, but since then it’s slowly gone back to how it was normally, and even though we have great security, I think that it’s something that Hopkins needs to be really on top of. They should be on their A game for security because we are in an urban setting, and even though campus itself is really safe, a block off campus may not be safe, and that can affect the lives of Hopkins students.”
Kuivila explained the circumstances surrounding the mugging.
“It was 11:45 p.m. on a weeknight. It was my second night on campus, and my mom was still in town. We were headed back to the dorms. None of us were intoxicated. We were in a group of four on a street that we knew very well and that I’ve walked up and down a hundred times,” she said.
“We couldn’t have done anything differently,” Kuvila added. “What we were doing was what we should have been doing.”
Freshman Julia Bindman, who read about the mugging in the Incident Report the next day, said that it made for a disconcerting first impression of Hopkins life.
“It was my first night on campus,” Bindman said. “I had just moved in and didn’t really know anything about Baltimore yet.”
Long wrote that Baltimore Police actively investigated the case, resulting in the arrest of several suspects.
“Since the robbery involving our students, there has been only one street robbery in our patrol area of a non-affiliate and a suspect was quickly apprehended by the Baltimore Police Department with the assistance from Campus Safety and Security,” Long wrote.
Campus Safety and Security has increased bike, foot and vehicle patrols throughout Charles Village, focusing especially on University Parkway, North Charles Street and 33rd Street. The Baltimore Police Department has increased the number of officer patrols in that vicinity as well. In addition, better street lighting was added at the request of the University.
Long believes that smart phones may be at the crux of why robberies are increasing in frequency.
“Criminals see cell phones as an avenue for quick cash,” Long wrote.
He explained that the summer street robberies shared a common link — cell phones were a target by the perpetrators in the majority of the cases.
“Cell phones should be used cautiously while in public and should not be displayed unless necessary,” Long wrote.
The University’s campus security website also lists cell phones as an object petty thieves target.
“Phone theft is usually a crime of opportunity. And criminals focus on the opportunities you give them, whether you’re walking on the street, sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop, working out at the gym or studying at the library,” the website said.
Phone theft has in fact increased not only on and around the Homewood Campus but throughout the country.
“Criminals tend to stay away from individuals exercising proper crime prevention techniques whether they are students or not,” Long wrote. “At the very minimum, we remind students to walk in groups and avoid displaying expensive property and cash. Everyone should choose routes of travel that are well lit and traveled by large numbers of pedestrians. It is always safer to utilize the Blue Jay Shuttle rather than walking long distances whenever possible.”
Long also mentioned the dynamic nature of security’s approach.
“We are always monitoring and assessing crime trends making the necessary adjustments to reduce the opportunities for crime,” Long wrote. “The increase of officer patrols and the ‘Smart’ CCTV camera system are important elements in Security’s crime prevention/deterrence strategy.”
Long described Campus Safety and Security’s philosophy as a continuous process that allows them to keep Hopkins among the safest campus communities.
Despite the recent rise in criminal activity, sophomore Alex Surget still feels very safe on campus.
“I definitely feel safe whether it is with the visible campus security patrolling the area or the secure access requiring JCards into buildings like the library and Charles Commons where I live,” Surget wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “There is also the Blue Jay shuttle for getting around the local area at night. In the Charles Village area, I certainly feel safe during the day but when it comes to the nighttime, you have to be smart, as you would in any urban environment. It comes down to being cognizant of your behavior and surroundings.”
Although students can rely on the security measures provided by Campus Safety and Security to some extent, Long explained that people have to be aware of their own safety as well.
“There is also a collective responsibility with the Hopkins community to take ownership of their own safety and become more safety conscious while in the community,” Long wrote.