A Jan. 7 robbery at the 7-11 convenience store next to the Homewood Apartments and a Jan. 14 armed robbery at the Subway restaurant on the corner of St. Paul and 33rd Streets have prompted Campus Security to increase its presence, according to Acting Assistant Director George Kibler.
In an email to The News-Letter, Kibler wrote that all retail stores on University property and along the St. Paul Street retail corridor are being closely monitored by Campus Security and off-duty police officers employed by Hopkins, especially when students are most likely to be present.
“This is part of our effort to heighten the visibility of security on the streets and to reduce opportunities for criminals,” Kibler wrote.
A Jan. 17 JHBroadcast email from Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger and Vice President of Corporate Security Keith Hill stated that the Charles Village Community Benefits District (CVCBD) added 70 new weekly man-hours of patrols by off-duty police through a pilot project funded by the University’s Homewood Community Partners Initiative.
“Always, our concern is for the safety of the students,” Hill said. “Nothing is full-clad, but [we] certainly make a presence and have enough officers and security present to [create] the optic and the appearance that there is security there, so that people ultimately will not want to do any crime there.”
Kibler wrote that Campus Security has been working with CVCBD to ensure that the new police patrols cover retail areas near campus.
“We are consulting with the [CVCBD] on those assignments, and coordinating to make sure we both are using our off-duty police assets in the most effective way we can,” Kibler wrote.
The JHBroadcast email also stated that the University plans to increase lighting on St. Paul Street and that the Office of Facilities and Real Estate will conduct a study to find out where additional lighting fixtures are needed to help deter crime.
“It will take time to develop plans, get the cooperation of property owners and carry out the improvements,” Kibler wrote. “We are confident we can accomplish that and are working to do so as soon as practical.”
Many students said they felt unsettled by the news of the robberies.
“We’re so surrounded by security and surrounded by resources that are there to protect us, [but] it is a shock that a crime [of] that severity can occur so close to campus not once but twice,” freshman Hansel Romero said. “The fact that they’re happening so close to campus does kind of make it feel like we have to resort to the Hopkins bubble a little bit more [and] stay on campus to show that we’re safe.”
Sophomore Stephanie Raps said that she wasn’t surprised by the news because Campus Security sends many email alerts about crime in the area.
“I wouldn’t even walk down to Barnes & Noble [alone at night],” Raps said. “I have a few friends that live in Homewood and I’m not even comfortable walking [from Charles Commons] down there to see them. It’s mainly because at night it gets really quiet around here and we’re not in the best area of Baltimore.”
The Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) is investigating both robberies. According to Campus Security, the suspect walked up to the cash register at the 7-11 store at 3000 N. Charles St. and took an undetermined amount of cash. An employee confronted the suspect and chased him out of the store, but stopped when the suspect threatened him. The incident took place at 3:45 p.m.
In the Subway robbery, which occurred between 8:45 and 8:50 p.m., two masked suspects, one of whom was armed with a silver handgun, instructed an employee to exit the restaurant while directing two other employees to give them cash from the safe and cash register. No customers were in the store at the time, and there were no witnesses.
Some students noted that they were surprised to hear that crimes occurred at Subway and the Homewood 7-11 as they are both locations where unarmed Campus Security officers, also known as “Hop Cops,” are often stationed.
“It’s kind of surprising that they happened so close to campus, especially because both of those locations have Hop Cops near them almost all the time,” junior Rachel McCoy said. “[Recently] I’ve noticed Hop Cops’ presence more.”
Although no arrests have been made in regard to the Subway and Homewood 7-11 robberies, Kibler wrote that BPD have arrested a three-person team connected to crimes that occurred at other 7-11 locations in the area. BPD has also recently arrested groups of underage suspects in connection with numerous street robberies in the city’s Northern and Northeastern Police Districts.
“This news is encouraging; however, we must continue to use good street smarts and remain alert and report unusual activity to minimize the opportunity of being victimized,” Kibler wrote.
Armed suspects have also targeted the 7-11 located at 211 W. 28th Street on three separate occasions over winter break, but Kibler wrote that these incidents appear to be unrelated to the Homewood 7-11 and Subway robberies. No arrests have been made for these crimes.
“The methods were entirely different,” Kibler wrote. “These were robberies of commercial establishments where an opportunity presented itself.”
The JHBroadcast email stated that the University is working with the CVCBD and the Charles Village Business Association to roll out their new Crime-Free Business Program, which aims to empower local business owners to help deter crime.
“The program provides business owners with training and on-site assessments and follow-up,” the email states. “When implemented elsewhere, this program has resulted in substantial reductions in robberies and violent crime.”
Kibler also wrote that he hopes students will continue to take their safety seriously and incorporate the safety tips highlighted in Campus Security’s alerts into their daily routine.
“I hope students won’t say, ‘Let’s be extra careful for a while’ and then forget about it after a few weeks,” Kibler wrote. “I hope instead that they take a look at the tips in the recent email message and on the Security website and think about them. I hope that, if they aren’t already following those tips, they adopt them now and make them a permanent part of their behavior. I hope they pay particular attention to our ‘Security Alerts.’”
Sophomore Girija Hariprasad said that even despite the crime, she feels safe because of Campus Security’s presence and because so many local residents are Hopkins students.
“I walk around thinking nothing’s going to happen to me,” Hariprasad said. “It’s not good to be walking around in fear.”
Kibler also wrote that Campus Security has begun conducting a national search to replace former Executive Director Ed Skrodzki who retired at the end of 2014. Skrodzki served in that position for nine and a half years.
“That [search] process is expected to take a few months,” Kibler wrote.