Students, faculty question off-campus safety

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Photo by Dennis Zuraw |

Police and Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office investigate the death of Billy McCaw, a former Rutgers student whose death raised concerns about off-campus safety.


After the Feb. 15 murder of former Rutgers student Billy McCaw, many in the University community questioned the ability of the Rutgers University Police Department and the New Brunswick Police Department to protect students.

Others looked to establish more transparency for RUPD and NBPD in wake of the incident.

Shortly after McCaw’s murder, students signed a petition asking Rutgers to send out an official crime notice for the incident.

The petition garnered more than 2,900 signatures in total. RUPD never complied, but has since begun to include the fifth and sixth wards in their crime notices.

Another New Brunswick resident chose to take action against RUPD for their lack of accountability. Charlie Kratovil, editor-in-chief of New Brunswick Today, sued the city of New Brunswick and Rutgers over non-disclosure of maps showing jurisdictions of RUPD and NBPD.

His requests were made in light of the December decision to limit the off-campus jurisdiction of RUPD, according to The Daily Targum.

His initial efforts were denied, but he was able to get access to the Memorandums of Understanding between RUPD and NBPD for 1996 and 2004.

The two police forces also announced a joint Neighborhood Police Team that would patrol off campus, including the fifth and sixth wards in the evening and early morning.

Eventually, NBPD announced they had arrested and charged Timothy Puskas, a New Brunswick resident and landlord, with allegedly committing McCaw’s murder.

Puskas was previously arrested and charged in a hit-and-run incident and faces charges on vehicular manslaughter as well as first-degree murder, according to New Brunswick Today.

Several student organizations also took the opportunity to review on-campus safety, starting with the Rutgers University Student Association, which asked for more “blue lights” around campus.

The Douglass Governing Council convinced the Rutgers University Department of Transportation Services to move the Katzenbach bus stop because of safety concerns due to its locations and limited protection.

In April, students gathered to launch a “Scarlet Zone” project to evaluate the safety of different neighborhoods, according to an article in The Daily Targum.

Sam Berman, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said in the article only 16,000 students of Rutgers’ 31,500 undergraduates live on campus.

“If you draw a line in New Brunswick, you can make an argument that Rutgers University must be a consistent presence within the off-campus community. McCaw’s case certainly shows the need of surveillance,” he said in the article.


Erin Petenko

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