Stay vigilant in wake of recent shootings

Know that there are public safety resources at a student’s disposal

Five separate off-campus shootings have rattled the New Brunswick and University community over the last few weeks with acts of gun-related violence. And as residents still reel from the latest incident, which took the life of a Raritan Valley Community College student on Robinson Street, students and New Brunswick residents should be reminded to practice constant vigilance when traveling in potentially dangerous areas of the city.

Shootings on Robinson Street, Throop, Redmond and Easton avenues should together serve to impress upon students and residents the need to remain aware of their surroundings, especially at night and when alone. While none of the shootings involved University students, a number of the victims were not far outside the average student’s age range.

Joshua Zhou, the 19 year-old community college student who was fatally shot last Thursday in the basement of a friend’s house on Robinson, was the only victim to have been killed through the shootings.

The New Brunswick community, as a whole, is certainly no stranger to gun-related violence. In the first 11 months of 2011, there were 79 gun-related crimes reported throughout the city, according to New Brunswick Police Department statistics. For any large city, shootings and armed robberies are inevitable — and New Brunswick’s tendency toward poverty, at least in many areas, compounds this problem. Indeed, much of the violence that occurs here is isolated to the city’s poorer communities, where conditions of poverty, hardship and destitution create an atmosphere conducive to desperate acts of violence.

In this regard, then, what’s concerning about September’s shootings in particular is their close proximity to campus. At least three of the incidents, including one which took place in a basement on Robinson Street and one in front of 93 Easton Ave., occurred in areas not only frequently traveled by students, by often residentially occupied by them.

Last Thursday’s shooting especially underlines this observation: Robinson Street, which runs only several blocks off College Avenue, is notorious for its heavy off campus student population, and students can often be found frequenting the area for off-campus weekend parties.

And students, though maybe unaware, are not without resources to help them stay safe here on campus. Transportation services such as the University’s Knight Mover and Rutgers University Police Officer escorts both are available to students traveling alone at night either on campus or off. Additionally, up-to-date crime alerts and notifications sent out by RUPD provide students with important information relating to recent incidents and ongoing investigations.

Students should be aware of these resources. While, during periods of unusually high crime-related incidents such as the one just witnessed we wish the University were more outspoken in informing students of them, they are available for students to make use of nonetheless. For a complete catalogue of crime prevention and public safety information, students can refer to the University’s Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report “Safety Matters”.

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