Police presence not enough for safety
Crime rates in New Brunswick not easily reduced, caution is key
We all knew what we were getting into when we decided to come to Rutgers. It’s a giant university that is sprawled across five separate campuses throughout New Brunswick and Piscataway — nothing like the ivy-covered walls of closed campuses with clearly defined borders like nearby Princeton or The College of New Jersey. The College Avenue and Cook and Douglass campuses in particular are intertwined with the city of New Brunswick, and it’s often difficult to determine where “on-campus” property ends and “off-campus” begins. Many students who live off-campus near College Avenue are much closer to classroom buildings like Scott Hall than those living in University housing down by the River Dorms.
There are a lot of benefits to having such an open campus — it’s one of the things we love about Rutgers. There’s a huge range of options for food, art and entertainment just a few minutes’ walk from our classrooms. There are countless opportunities for internships and jobs for students in New Brunswick itself, and with the train station right at the end of College Avenue, we can get to Manhattan in less than an hour, too.
But for all the things we love about New Brunswick, it’s much more than just a “college town” for Rutgers students. The issues of violence and poverty that the city struggles with are not too far beneath the gentrified facade of restaurants, cafés and upscale housing that lines George Street. These high crime rates are often a result of the many structural issues that come with poverty. According to the Census Bureau’s 2006-2010 American Community Survey, more than 25 percent of the population of New Brunswick lives below the poverty line. Minority groups — who already face disadvantages that come with racism, classism and other forms of discrimination — make up a combined majority of the total population.
Campus safety has always been an issue because the violence in New Brunswick inevitably spills over into Rutgers, especially on the College Avenue and Douglass campuses. Despite the efforts of both the Rutgers University and New Brunswick Police Departments, it’s not really getting any better. A few weeks ago, we received a crime alert about a mugging right on College Avenue, near Scott Hall, that landed the victim (who is a Rutgers student) in the hospital. Two days ago, we got another crime alert of a robbery at gunpoint on Mine Street — which is directly off College Avenue — that happened in at 6:20 p.m., just after sundown. It’s scary to think that this could easily happen to any of us at any time, not just on a dark street in the middle of the night. It’s easy to think that having more of a police presence or adding more lighting will solve the problem of crimes, but those are still superficial solutions to a deeply rooted issue. Besides, these are both improvements that have already been made, and while they might help a little bit, they aren’t the solution.
The increased amount of crime alerts that we seem to be getting might feel alarming, but it’s honestly a good thing, and we’re thankful for it. At least we’re all very aware of how careful we need to be when we’re walking around both on campus and off, and we’re hopefully all taking the necessary precautions. Before, we didn’t get so many because we weren’t alerted about crimes that occurred off-campus. But “off-campus” is often literally right around the corner from our classrooms, and a lot of us are in these areas just as often as we are on campus, especially those of us who live off campus. Last year, the RUPD and NBPD joined forces and revamped the way they patrol the city and the University. The jurisdictions of the departments are vague, so the decision to implement joint patrols makes sense to ensure that there aren’t any areas either on or off campus that are overlooked. We can’t solve the problem of crime rates in the city, but we can definitely take steps to protect our own safety, and the police departments should do as much as they can to help us with that.