One Pirate Alert can set a campus into motion. Within seconds of an alert students might warn friends to stay away from a recently reported crime, take extra precautions while traveling or even avoid certain areas altogether. But what if this cycle could begin before the alert is even issued?
Crime can happen anywhere, anytime, or so it seems. What students might not realize is that, according to data from the South Orange Police Department, walking down Irvington Avenue at 3 p.m. holding a cellphone substantially increases your risk of becoming a target.
The Setonian has obtained records from the South Orange Police from September 2014 to September 2015 and information from Seton Hall’s Department of Public Safety in an attempt to analyze calls for service and pinpoint the time and location of potential crime hot spots off-campus.
There have been 26 total Pirate Alerts in the year ending September 2015, according to documents obtained from the Department of Public Safety and Security.
Of those 26, nine were off-campus robberies and three were anonymous threats.
Additionally, under the Clery Act, Seton Hall must present a yearly crime report. The Clery Act is a consumer protection law passed in 1990. It requires all colleges and universities that receive federal funding to share an annual report of crime reported on and contiguous to campus in order to improve campus safety and keep the public informed, according to the Clery Center for Security on Campus. Seton Hall’s report, which was released a few weeks ago, lists three total robberies and four burglaries in 2014.
According to Patrick Linfante, assistant vice president/director of the Department of Public Safety, this number does not account for other areas off-campus that are also relevant to students’ safety.
According to the report, non-campus areas are considered “any building or property owned or controlled by a student organization that is officially recognized by the institution; or any building or property owned or controlled by an institution that is used in direct support of, or in relation to, the institution’s educational purposes, is frequently used by students, and is not within the same reasonably contiguous geographic area of the institution.”
However, in records obtained from the South Orange Police Department, calls to report incidents of criminal or suspicious activity in South Orange, in areas including and surrounding Seton Hall, have been tracked by type, location and time of day in a “zone” breakdown.
According to Sergeant Adrian Acevedo of the Community Relations Bureau, the area patrolled by the SOPD is divided into several zones. Seton Hall is located in Zone 1, the most active in crime reports.
In highlighting what Acevedo refers to as “priority” calls for service in Zone 1 involving various types of assault, theft, burglary, drug-related instances, disturbances, robbery, trespassing and suspicious person/vehicle reports, there have been a total of 505 calls from around the beginning of last academic year to the beginning of this year. 36 percent of total calls were to report a suspicious person, 18 percent were to report a disturbance, 15 percent were to report a suspicious vehicle, 12 percent were for theft, 4 percent were for burglary and 2 percent were for assault.
According to James Chelel, police chief of the South Orange Police Department (SOPD), there have been 24 robberies in South Orange since January and 15 of them have been in Zone 1. “That can tell you where we should focus our attention,” said Chelel.
Valley Street, Riggs Place, South Orange Avenue, Ward Place, Irvington Avenue and Academy Street were selected by Acevedo as areas particularly active in criminal activity in close proximity to Seton Hall. Of these same selected calls, these six streets made up nearly all of Zone 1’s calls, totaling more than 400 calls for service.
South Orange Avenue had a total of 183 calls, 66 were to report a suspicious person. Valley had 86 calls and Irvington had 77.
Of these selected streets, time of the call was also broken down. The most common time of day for calls was at 3 p.m. followed by 10 p.m. There was also noticeable activity around midnight.
According to Chelel, it is common for calls to come in when people are coming home from work or school. As for the later times, “in the morning is probably due to the bars letting out, and some of the quality of life issues,” he said. “I’m out there at night as well sometimes and I just see sometimes people aren’t paying attention.”
Chelel and Linfante agree that there has been an apparent downward trend in crime around campus so far this year.
“We’ve seen less criminal activity,” Linfante said. “Most colleges and universities it seems it’s universal that at the beginning of each academic year there’s criminal activity that occurs… but this year classes started at the end of August and we’re here at the beginning of October, we’re in pretty good shape.”
Last year there were eight robberies in South Orange in September, according to the police chief, while this year there has been only one. Chelel attributes the drop in criminal activity to quality action implemented by the SOPD earlier this summer.
Following a robbery on Aug. 10 not involving SHU students, the SOPD arrested four individuals. “We think if we had not arrested them they may have been involved in other robberies later in August when school started up,” he said.
Linfante attributes some of the improved crime stats to an increased awareness among students.
He has seen more students utilize campus transportation,public transportation, and services such as Uber. “(Students) are more aware of what’s going on in the world,” he said. “All the stuff on the news, this Oregon thing really brings it home,” Linfante said. “You go to school, you want to be safe.”
Chelel encourages college students to call to report incidents more. “I would encourage you to be like another set of eyes and ears for the police,” Chelel said. “We take pride in having Seton Hall here, we like to give the best protection for you, we like to work with you to keep you all safe.”
Linfante reiterates some of the traits that he attributed to the recent lack of criminal activity. “Crime is going to happen, you can’t prevent everything from happening, but if people use their head, do all of the right things (crime) is less likely to happen,” he said.
Mary Marshall can be reached at email@example.com.