Stories produced by St. Peter's Journalism Students
By Yarleen Hernandez, Class of 2014
It’s 7:45 at night. You’re walking back to the residence halls from your coffee break. No one is around and you have 4 more blocks left in your journey. You can’t seem to shake the feeling of impending doom that is quickly growing inside of you. You realize that you’re not on campus anymore and anything is fair game. All of a sudden, you hear quick footsteps approaching behind you and your mind just tells you to do one thing: RUN.
While there may have been no reason to overact and run away, the old saying goes, better to be safe than sorry and that is exactly how many students feel in regards to the atmosphere outside of Saint Peter’s College.
“You know which places not to go to when you grow up in a certain area but not all of us have grown up in urban areas so it is wiser not to stray,” said Lily Rivas, a junior resident at SPC. “As students, we pay a lot of money to come to St. Peter’s whether we are residents or commuters and it is unfair to constantly have to be worrying about safety issues.”
The increasing fear might be due to the e-mail notifications that the students receive periodically by the school’s campus safety director and retired lieutenant of the Jersey City Police Department, Arthur J. Youmans. Mr. Youmans believes that it is important for the Saint Peter’s College community to stay informed through frequent e-mail notifications of incidents that could have an impact on the college.
Recently, the SPC community has received at least one e-mail almost every month involving intruders and crimes. While no students have been seriously harmed, one was reportedly mugged and robbed, at gunpoint it is believed, of their cell phone and cash, and three other students were robbed and injured in a separate incident. On May 1st, the St. Peter’s student body received an e-mail describing an incident that took place on April 27th at 12:30am. The incident involved three SPC students who were walking on Duncan Ave and were attacked by two males who apprehended them, stole their cellphones and inflicted minor injuries on the students. Previously this year, the St. Peter’s community received a mass e-mail on January 26th notifying SPC of two robberies that had occurred two days in a row which did not involve any SPC students. The next day students received an additional e-mail informing the student body of a robbery that occurred on the evening of January 26th. This new incident did indeed involve an SPC student who was robbed by two men who were possibly concealing a weapon to scare the student into giving up his possessions.
“I think everyone knows the area we’re in,” emphasized Nina Lemonnier, a senior at SPC. “The school should be putting more stress on keeping the students safe especially the ones that live here. The campus is completely open and we can’t even control who wanders into the quad.”
Because of the e-mails, many students feel that the crime rate is increasing and the feeling of uneasiness lingers among the student body. Mr. Youmans begs to differ. “The crime is not getting worse,” said Mr. Youmans. “It might seem like it is since we now get these notifications but the difference is that we did not send them out before. What might seem like a saturation is really only a few.”
In regards to the campus safety staff, Mr. Youmans explained his staff is made of mainly retired police officers. His assistant is a retired sergeant while the shift managers are retired detectives. In a regular week, there are about 60 officers and security guards that work 24 hours a day 7 days a week in various shifts. The security guard staff is contracted by the school from a company in Newark called Gateway Security INC. Apart from the staff, technology also plays a large part in observing suspicious activities.
“We have a very good amount of technological support that supplements our staff,” said Mr. Youmans. “We have 70 doors on the campus that are card access only. We have panic buttons and alarms in every other building where there are cash collections or areas that would be susceptible to crime. We have about 180 cameras on campus. There are 5 monitors and each monitor in campus safety is able to display 16 images. All of our cameras are strategically placed in important areas.”
Daniel Ospino, long time Jersey City resident feels that the college’s location makes it susceptible to crime.
“It’s too much of an open campus,” said Mr. Ospino. “I think that SPC’s location lends to the problems but I don’t put it as the only reason.”
Mr. Youmans goes on to say that there are dangerous parts to every city especially in urban areas. “Certainly if you live in an urban environment you know how to live,” said Mr. Youmans. “The area around SPC, even though it is part of an urban area, it is fairly safe. In any urban area in the country, wherever you are, it can be as safe as can be but with a 15 minute walk, it could be very dangerous. That certainly is the case in New York City, in Chicago, the West coast and so on.”
Student resident, Rosemarie Driscoll, agrees.
“I’ve never experienced any incident firsthand,” said Driscoll. “I’ve gone to Catholic schools my whole life and it seems to me, for some reason, they’re always located in really rough parts of whichever town they’re in. I don’t think being a resident at SPC is a liability to safety and for the most part, our campus is pretty safe. I think the administration does a good job of keeping students safe on campus, which is really all they’re responsible for and able to do.”
Certainly, while the campus is responsible for keeping their students safe, there are still dangerous elements close by. Consequently, students must have their eyes and ears open at all times, especially after dark.
“We have students that walk here all night long to Journal Square and back,” said Mr. Youmans. “As a parent, your most prized possession is your child and all a parent wants to ensure is that the college is making it as safe as possible and I believe St. Peter’s has done that and as long as I’m here, we will continue to do that.”
According to ope.ed.gov/security, which is the Office of Postsecondary Education of the U.S. Department of Education website that reports crime, fire and security statistics in postsecondary education, St. Peter’s College had 4 on-campus burglaries in 2008, 3 in 2009 and 3 in 2010 with 1 aggravated assault in 2009. The off-campus burglaries and aggravated assaults are much lower with no reported aggravated assaults from 2008 through 2010 and 1 burglary in 2008, 2 in 2009 and 1 in 2010.
Mr. Youmans goes on to say that campus safety “is not just my job, it’s all of our jobs and we all can do our part by being observant and aware.” “NY coined the phrase several years ago after 9/11: if you see something, say something and we all have to live by that. If you see something, tell us about it.”
And if you do find yourself in need of help, Youmans said the main phone line will always be answered. Call campus safety at 201 -761- 7400 to report suspicious activity in any area around the campus and certainly 911 if necessary.