Danger close to home

St. John’s Department of Public Safety issued two advisories to students last week regarding off-campus crimes, raising questions about security around campus.

The first advisory, issued on Tuesday, November 6, described an incident in which a student, returning to campus alone at 2:10 a.m., was sexually assaulted by the driver of a livery cab.
According to the advisory, the student sat in the front passenger seat of the cab while the driver “inappropriately touched the victim while driving him to the Queens campus. When the vehicle reached the vicinity of 168th Street and 81st Avenue, the driver parked the car on an unknown street and sodomized the victim inside the car.”

The advisory went on to warn students not to travel alone and to always ride in the rear seat of a car service.

According to Tom Lawrence, vice president of public safety, the case has “gone to the Queens Special Victims Unit.”

The second advisory was issued just three days later, and describes a robbery that took place at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 9, near Gate 7. According to the advisory, three male students were walking towards Utopia Parkway on 82nd Avenue when a silver vehicle drove up and parked next to them. Three of the four occupants of the vehicle exited and asked the victims if they had the time, and then demanded property. “One of the perpetrators grabbed a student from behind in a choke hold and took the student’s iPod and cell phone before punching him and throwing him to the ground,” the advisory stated.
The three perpetrators returned to the vehicle and then fled towards Utopia Parkway, according to the advisory.

The 107th precinct is investigating the incident, said Lawence, who also noted that one of the University’s closed-circuit televisions caught the suspected vehicle on tape.

“There’s a possibility that this vehicle was connected to two other robberies,” said Lawrence, “one that occurred on November 10 and one that occurred on November 12, 2007.”
Lawrence said that besides issuing the advisories to students and informing them of what happened, Public Safety has not done anything to beef up security on campus.

Students seem to feel that Public Safety has done a good job keeping students informed and secure.

“I’m not scared,” said sophomore Bella Yushuvayev. “Public safety takes every call seriously. Since I stay at work until 12 a.m. nearly every day, I always call them when I feel unsafe, and they come and escort me to my car.”

Diana Aronova agreed. “I think they do a great job,” she said. “Even on the weekends, public safety officers come by if I’m alone and ask how I’m doing and if things are okay.”

Students also feel more secure after the campus lockdown incident last September.

“The Omesh incident was well done,” said sophomore Emanuel Kataev. “I think that was a big indication of how good a job they do, so I’m not scared to be either on campus or in the surrounding area.”

Still, other students are not satisfied with Public Safety’s lack of response.

“I’m not sure how safe I feel,” said senior Joe Cosmo. “I think Public Safety should beef up security to respond to the latest off-campus crimes.”