In the month of September in 2015, police responded to a total of 20 reported crimes in 10 different incidents at Rutgers’s University Center Apartments at 30 Easton Ave. in New Brunswick, N.J.
According to the Rutgers Police Department crime log, there were seven different incidents of theft or burglary reported, as well as criminal trespass, a suspicious drug-related incident, and sexual assault were among the unlawful acts.
A resident assistant at the Easton Ave. apartments noted, “A man who was not a resident of the building came inside and walked into several unlocked apartments throughout the building and stole electronics. A lot of times, residents were actually in the apartments when it happened, but were in their bedrooms or showers. At least 5 laptops were stolen.”
Building residents were notified by Rutgers Residence Life via email subsequently of the break-ins.
A student resident, Javed Shah, age 20, notes the defensive response of Residence Life: “We were notified by a floor meeting and emails about the issues with theft and about precautions we could take, like not letting people in without swiping and always locking your door.”
— Sergio Bichao (@sbichao) September 14, 2015
In a particularly violent incident that occurred on the other end of of the College Ave campus on September 14, 2015, Rutgers officials also did not issue any crime alerts.
On September 1, Residence Life Coordinator for University Center, Sabrina Lobue, distributed a “Report of Lost/Stolen Property & Safety Precautions” email to Easton Ave apartment residents.
In the email she wrote, “If you notice that you had an electronic item (laptop, tablet, headphones) that has gone missing in the past couple of hours, please contact the Rutgers Police Department (RUPD) and reference CAD # 54154.
There were a string of burglaries this evening in apartments with doors which were left unlocked. The suspect was apprehended and items that were recovered have been taken to RUPD and locked up as evidence. If you believe some of these items may belong to you, please call RUPD immediately.”
Assistant Director of Residence Life for the College Avenue Campus, Sean Dowd, encouraged all University Center residents to attend an informational meeting hosted by Residence Life in collaboration with RUPD and Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA).
Sabrina Lobue noted the security measures in place prior to the incidents: “Security cameras, ID swipe access to enter the building, stairwells, and elevators, and rounds held by our apartment assistants throughout the evening – 7 days a week,” she says.
According to a student resident, students enter the building by swiping their campus ID card. A Rutgers student ID card validates inhabitancy and permits admittance.
However, due to the heavy criminal activity that ensued, a resident assistant noted that an unarmed Community Service Officer (CSO) now remains stationed in the lobby from 7pm – 7am on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
It is the CSO’s duty to check student ID’s upon entering. They also ensure that students entering are actually following the security swipe procedure. Students who do not have a swipe present are looked up before they are allowed into the building.
However, due to the omission of crime notifications, many students residing outside the apartment complex remain unaware of the numerous criminal incidents that occurred on campus property. Many say the lack of a crime alert raises imperative concern. The Easton Ave apartments are a Rutgers University owned and operated facility. The building houses 649 students.
On October 1, NJ Spark requested police records from the Rutgers University Police Department. The police records were specific to case incidents in September, and this reporter was promised documentation on October 12. After two separate follow up emails, no documentation was received.
Michael J. Rein, Deputy Chief of University Police, gives insight into the decision procedure behind crime alerts. He mentions it is the decision of the Deputy Chief of Police to determine circulation.
In order for a crime alert to be sent out, it has to satisfy a “four prong test”, Officer Rein says.
4 Questions Rutgers PD Asks Before Issuing Crime Alerts
1. Does the type of crime fall under the Clery Act? The Clery Act requires prompt publication of criminal offenses such as robbery, sex offenses (forcible or non-forcible), burglary, murder, arrests, aggravated assault, and other criminal offenses.
2. Was the crime reported to University Police or another police force?
3. Is it considered a continuing or serious threat?
4. Did it occur in the geographical query of campus property?
Officer Rein notes that off-campus crime alerts follow the same procedural test, but deal with a separate geographical query.
The lack of crime alerts for incidents at University Center is in contrast to statements made by administration officials regarding informing the Rutgers community about crime on campus.
Chancellor Richard Edwards wrote to the campus community in response to previous crimes, saying, “The University will inform its community of serious incidents against Rutgers students, faculty and staff in other parts of the city and areas surrounding the campuses when the university is made aware of any incidents.”
In the month of October, seven crimes were reported in four different incidents in the building. A suspicious incident, theft by unlawful taking, and two separate accounts of domestic violence were reported.
From the start of November until November 25, two crimes were reported, including theft by unlawful taking and a suspicious incident.
No crime alerts were issued for any of these incidents.
Contributed by NJ Spark student-reporter Jennifer Goldberg.