Students urged to travel safely in light of robbery
Tiffany Do/Staff Photographer
The South Orange Police Department has arrested three men–including a student of William Paterson University –and charged them with the armed robbery of four Seton Hall students on Irvington Avenue near Prospect Street the day before classes started.
University officials said the Seton Hall students, two on-campus residents and two off-campus residents, fell victim to a “crime of opportunity” when three black males forced them behind a building at 1 a.m. on Aug. 24 and stole their valuable possessions.
“That night these students were walking, from a location they were visiting, back to their car, and these criminals saw them and took advantage of the opportunity,” Assistant Vice President for Public Safety and Security Patrick Linfante said.
The suspected robbers proceeded to pistol whip one victim and punch another in the face. The three stole the students’ wallets and cell phones before taking off in a dark colored minivan, according to a statement released by the SOPD.
On Aug. 28, the police identified the three suspects as Guillermo Estrada, 19 of Irvington, who attends William Paterson University, Lynwood Duncan, 18, of Newark and Lamont Harris, 19, of Newark. They will remain in Essex County Jail on $300,000 dollar bail with no 10 percent option, according to SOPD.
Following the robbery, the three suspects were tracked using the victims’ credit cards. Their vehicle was caught on camera at multiple locations. Estrada was arrested on the William Paterson campus in Wayne by the University’s police department.
He is charged with the possession and use of stolen credit cards. Subsequent investigations by South Orange police led to the other arrests. All three men are charged with four counts of robbery, kidnapping, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes or conspiracy, according to the SOPD.
“I was quite pleased that South Orange took this so seriously and did some great detective work,” Dean of Student Services Dr. Tracy H. Gottlieb said. She added, “My primary concern is for students’ safety. I will continue to work closely with (Public Safety) to make sure that we keep our students safe, but I need students to participate in this as well.”
Dr. Gottlieb stressed the importance of utilizing transportation services offered on and around campus, such as the SafeRide and the SHUfly.
“The SHUfly and the SafeRide were an outgrowth of our concern for the safety of our students and it has only grown,” she said.
Linfante reported that the SafeRide has more than doubled ridership compared to this time last year. Over 500 rides were recorded the first weekend of the academic year, while this past weekend rides exceeded 800.
According to Linfante, the SHUfly is a shuttle that runs on a fixed loop that takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. He urged students to use this resource to get to locations in town or along Valley Street. The SHUFLY was initiated with resident students in mind.
“I think students sometimes misunderstand that it can take them anywhere, but it doesn’t,” he said. “It’s a service we want students to utilize, but we also want them to understand it’s not on demand—it’s on call,” he said. “It’s like if you were to call a cab company and they were having an extremely busy time or a big event going on you would have to expect it wouldn’t be there in five minutes, it may take a half hour.”
He added that waiting for the SafeRide is safer than walking late at night.
There is a “zone” in the immediate South Orange area in which the Safe Ride travels. Dr. Gottlieb urged students who intend to live off-campus to choose a residence in this zone in order to utilize the safe transportation services offered by the school.
Linfante said that if something “very serious” happened outside of the zone Public Safety would respond, but university transportation is confined to the zone for multiple reasons. “If I had to take you way outside of the zone, the students who live nearby and depend on our service, they have to wait, and what happens they end up not wanting to wait and end up walking,” he said.
He recommended that students who don’t want to wait for campus transportation should keep the phone numbers of local cab companies on hand. “Everyone on campus, not just the students but faculty, employees, they have to take responsibility for their own safety,” he said.
Mary Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.