Over the weekend there were two separate incidents in which students from the Atlanta University Center were victims of armed robberies near campus, causing many students at the nation’s most famous center of historically black learning to worry about whether they are safe on the campus they call home.
Two Spelman students along with three friends were robbed at gunpoint at Dean Rusk Park on Saturday and ordered to strip and stand in a pool of water. A student at The Interdenominational Theological Center said two men robbed him as he returned home from studying late Sunday night.
Safety has always been a primary issue for students of the AUC, and campus police believe they have made an attempt to become more effective in stopping crime. However, there are some who feel these efforts have done nothing to make students safer.
“Campus police may be more visible this year, but they’re even less productive and proactive than before,” said Emanuel Germany, a senior at Morehouse College. “They care more about making sure students have their ID’s than making sure they stay away from suspicious activity.”
Senior John Bradley took it even further, saying, “If your vehicle is parked in the wrong place sure enough campus police will show up, however you may be walking home from the library late at night and not see an officer. And if you do, they’re probably sleep.”
Morehouse College Chief of Police Vernon Worthy gave a rationale for the recent string of robberies that pointed a finger back at the students.
“We’ve reached the time of year where students begin to feel more comfortable in the surrounding areas, and as a result they let their guards down,” he said.
Chief Worthy commended the job campus police have done: “We do a good job of preventing crime in most areas near campus, which is why we ask students to stay close to the main footprint of the campus.”
A statement by Spelman’s vice president for student affairs, Darnita Killian, said the incidents of criminal acts on the Spelman campus are “extremely low,” but students have the same potential to be a crime victim as “everyone living in the Atlanta metropolitan area and in American urban centers.” The statement lists Spelman initiatives intended to combat crime, such as a special patrol from 6 p.m. to midnight beyond the campus area, additional shuttle hours and expanded patrols along a heavily used pedestrian promenade.
“We all know this isn’t the best area,” senior Kellen Nelson told reporters. “When you are out late at night walking around here it’s almost like you’re asking to get robbed.”
The robbery on Saturday took place around 2 a.m., while the second crime happened around 4 a.m.
“I never risked walking through the AUC at night,” recent Spelman graduate Kavindra Ferguson said. “Even when I lived in Castleberry, I took the shuttle to school and to the library. There are things in place to prevent students from getting robbed; it’s up to students to utilize them.”