Tulane students are asking the university for beefed up patrols

This story was published on page A1 of The Times-Picayune on January 17, 2012. 

Two years ago, Tulane freshmen Adrienne Barnabee and Elizabeth Mardiks were walking home around dusk when two armed men approached them near the intersection of Broadway and Maple streets and ordered them to turn over their cash.


Since then, Barnabee said she’s so afraid of walking in the area that she no longer schedules any classes after dark.

“After having been attacked so close to campus, I don’t feel safe walking anywhere,” she said.

Barnabee is one of 1,200 students who have signed a petition urging Tulane President Scott Cowen to take more action to protect students in the area surrounding the university.

Even though Tulane police have beefed up patrols and shuttle bus service in response to a spike in armed robberies last semester, the students who organized the petition have a clear message: “It’s not enough.”

Clare Austen-Smith, 21, decided to organize the “It’s Not Enough” campaign after many of her friends became crime victims, including one who woke up to see a strange man standing over her bed.

“We’re fed up with living in this atmosphere of fear where you can’t walk two blocks home because someone will jump out of the bushes and rob you, or even worse, rape you,” said Austen-Smith, adding that she fears walking home from class as early as 5:30 p.m.

At least 14 students were robbed — some at gunpoint — in the area around campus last semester, an increase of almost 75 percent from each of the past four semesters. In addition to the spike in armed robberies, two women recently were raped just blocks from campus.

The “It’s Not Enough” campaign picked up steam when it posted a video online that within days collected more than 5,000 views. In the video, students look directly into the camera and say they are sick of being scared all the time.

The students are asking the university for more off-campus patrols and better communication with students. They also want campus police to focus more on protecting students than on arresting them for minor offenses, such as underage drinking.

Cowen said in an email to The Times-Picayune that he has seen the video and petition and takes the student’s concerns “seriously.”

“(We) are meeting with them this week to further discuss their concerns and ideas,” he wrote. “The safety and security of our students, faculty, and staff community are top priorities for the university.”

Tulane police Col. Jack Leblanc said his department plans to increase off-campus bike and foot patrols this semester.

Meanwhile, Mike Hogg, Tulane’s vice president of student affairs, said that students feeling unsafe can always call a police escort or take a free shuttle bus that runs between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Robert Reed, vice president of student affairs at neighboring Loyola, said Tulane and Loyola students also can find United Cab Co. taxis on his campus.

For years, students have complained about extreme darkness on the streets around the university. Last week, two women were raped on a street two blocks from campus where, according to the incident’s police report, lighting was “poor.”

Hogg said Tulane repeatedly has asked the city to repair certain streetlights but many remain broken.


Tulane Associated Student Body President Evan Nicoll, 22, said student government leaders have discussed installing emergency call boxes in surrounding neighborhoods and handing out loud whistles to students. He, for one, isn’t convinced more off-campus patrols would result in less crime.

“Yes, we go to Tulane and we spend a lot of money on tuition, but there’s not enough money to get officers to be literally everywhere at once,” Nicoll said.

Loyola Police Chief Patrick Bailey said crime hasn’t been as bad this year as in previous ones. Even with more armed robberies, the Uptown area around the two universities doesn’t see the same consistent rates of violent crime as other neighborhoods in the city, he said.

“We’re almost like an island in a city that is having a hard time with crime,” Bailey said.

Some students also shared that assessment.

Jacob Tupper, 21, was robbed and pistol-whipped while walking to a friend’s house about two blocks from campus. He was with two other guys at the time, all of them over 6 feet tall.

Tupper said that despite his experience, he won’t sign the “It’s Not Enough” petition because Tulane students rarely are victims of violent crime.

“I had no fear of the (armed robbers) actually shooting me or my friends,” he said. “I really just saw it as a crime of social opportunity. The people who mugged us would never have an opportunity to attend a school like Tulane, so they’re seizing their opportunity of pretty easy targets: rich, white, drunk kids walking the streets.”

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