Over the past few weeks, the Hopkins community has received multiple emergency alerts about crimes occurring around Baltimore campuses, including two abductions or attempted abductions near the Homewood Campus. The University responded to this uptick in serious violent crimes in a message to affiliates on Oct. 29.
Due to the disturbing nature of these incidents, the topic of public safety has permeated conversations at Hopkins. Being the victim of a crime is a traumatic experience, both mentally and physically, and our thoughts are with those in the community who have endured this trauma recently. An increase in crime can also lead to a general sense of fear and insecurity in the area.
The University has taken steps to address students’ safety concerns, including the increased presence of available escorts and public safety officers. Additionally, a major aspect of the University’s long-term strategy for crime reduction is the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD), a private university police force with jurisdiction at Hopkins campuses around Baltimore.
However, with recent calls for police reform, the JHPD has been a highly contentious issue. Interactions with the police can be traumatic, and sometimes even fatal, for people of color, who make up about 70% of Baltimore’s population.
Hopkins should address the recent rise in crime while remaining cognizant of the tension surrounding police. If the University proceeds with the development of the JHPD, it must do so with utmost caution. The Accountability Board needs to ensure Hopkins sets a model for policing in the city and pays heed to the concerns of its Black community members.
Regardless of what transpires with the JHPD, Hopkins should expand existing safety measures. Currently, the University offers resources such as the Night Ride, emergency blue lights and the LiveSafe app. The Night Ride is a free, on-demand transportation service that runs from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The University knows Hopkins students stay out late. Even Brody is open until 2 a.m. and the Hutzler Reading Room is open 24/7. On weekends, students may attend parties or other social events that go until the early hours of the morning. Seeing as the majority of serious violent crimes take place at night, Hopkins should do everything it can to ensure students have a safe way to get home. Increasing the hours of the Night Ride service is a step toward achieving this goal.
It is never anyone’s fault that they are a victim of crime. Yet, there are some strategies students can take for their safety. Whenever you can, avoid walking alone at night. Stick to well-lit areas and avoid wearing headphones or appearing distracted. Travel in packs with your friends and text each other when you get home. While the University is trying to address public safety, we need to do our part, as well. It’s more important than ever that we look out for each other.
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