It was a walk Ben Tepfer had made many times before. Tepfer was used to walking home to Sadler Hall late at night. As a freshman, Tepfer would come home later than 3 in the morning at least once a week from his job at the Daily Orange.
“When I would go out with people, I’d always walk back with people,” said Tepfer. “but I guess that was at the beginning. Then I realized that things don’t generally happen.”
Tepfer sees things a little differently now. Back on April 11th of last year, two men approached Tepfer near the Irving Avenue Parking Garage on his walk home to Sadler. Tepfer was on the phone and didn’t really notice the silver sedan that was pulling up to him. The robbers pushed him against a fence and threatened him with a shotgun. The men took off with Tepfer’s wallet, his cell phone and the keys to his dorm room. The sophomore TRF student is still shaken up when he talks about what happened.
“For the rest of that night and probably for the next couple of days after I would describe a trauma state where you don’t really feel anything like a rush of adrenaline that’s actually really what it was,” said Tepfer. “It was almost surreal.”
Tepfer is not the only SU student who has been affected by neighborhood crime. Sophomore Visual and Performing Arts student Tom Howland had a similar incident happen to him just two months ago. Someone broke into Howland’s South Campus apartment early in the morning back on February 20th. The robbers took off with Howland’s new computer, his TV, his Play Station Three and several of his DVDs.
When Howland got a phone call from his roommate about his things being missing, he didn’t believe him at first.
“I get a call while I’m in Kimmel, my roommate telling me that all my stuff is gone,” Howland said. “Previously he did jokes like take my stuff like last year. And he said ‘Seriously. Your stuff isn’t here.’”
Robberies like the one that happened to Howland are nothing new to SU or even the whole east side of Syracuse. Last year alone, there were over 60 robberies and over 50 motor vehicles thefts reported on the east side of Syracuse. Even Comstock Avenue, where three SU dorms are located, has not been crime-free. A total of 73 larcenies, 39 burglaries and six car thefts have occurred there over the last three years.
Harry Lewis, the treasurer of the Southeast University Neighborhood Association, says that there are a number of reasons why so much crime has taken place near the university.
“Where you have more concentration of students I think you have the possibility of having more break-ins,” he said. “You have housing down there, section eight housing. And a lot of the people like that will constantly be on the lookout for open doors.”
Despite all the crime, Assistant Chief of Public Safety Mike Rathbun says that the Syracuse University area is actually one of the safest parts of the city because of its huge police presence.
“Of the law enforcement presence on the hill. You have Syracuse police, you have Syracuse University, you have ESF police, we have UpState Police, you have the Veterans Police,” Rathbun said. You can’t stay anywhere on campus and not see a police vehicle drive by every two minutes.”
Rathbun also said that he thinks that a lot of the crimes that happen near SU are preventable and that students need to be more careful.
“Students are not being very observant. They’re walking with their head down they have iPhones on, they’re talking on the phone, they’re not really alert to what’s going on around them. So they’re letting people approach them,” he said.
DPS sends out emails when a robbery or any other safety incident happens on campus. DPS has sent out 106 emails since the beginning of the 2004 school year. The purpose of the emails is to try to get students to be more aware of their surroundings. It seems like the emails are working. Since moving to Ackerman Avenue, Mike Couzens has made several changes to his daily routine to help him stay safe.
“I do a lot of different things,” Couzens said. “I always make sure to take my GPS out of my car, you know. Take out anything that’s going to be worth any money. It’s doing the simple things. Just being smart about it.”
For students, just like the rest of college, trying to stay safe is a learning experience.
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