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Shutter Orange: Village needs to better protect citizens

Over and over again this school year, students have been reminded to walk in pairs in South Orange. Despite the quaint locale of South Orange Avenue and the harmless appearance of its quiet side streets, by now we all recognize, or should recognize, that South Orange is a dangerous place to meander, especially at night.

As a former resident of Xavier Hall and now someone that lives in an apartment in South Orange, I recognize these dangers and always try to heed Public Safety's advice. So I find it all the more disconcerting when I walk to and from campus and see adults who appear mentally challenged wandering the town alone.

Many students can testify to experiences with a middle-aged, black man with long dreadlocks, otherwise known as T-Payne.

When I first encountered him, he told me about his upcoming dance studio, and he actually grabbed one of my friends by the collar and emphatically claimed something nonsensical about his invented life.

But this is not just one isolated incident with one person: these events occur often enough to indicate a potential problem. Once a muttering woman screamed at me for crossing the street by Rite Aid (she called me a "dingbat"). Another time, as I was dropping my cable bill in the mailbox, a man stood motionless ten feet or so from me and just glared. When I walked away, I looked over my shoulder and he remained there—just staring.

These are just some of my several experiences as a 10 month resident of South Orange.

Some of these examples were downright spooky; in the mailbox incident, I was unsure what the person staring at me was going to do, and I kept thinking of "Shutter Island." Is this "Shutter Orange?"

But I can handle the occasional odd-encounter, since these people have been completely harmless. Yet what I still cannot fathom is how they are left to walk around by themselves—how a guy like T-Payne has been able to gain university-wide notoriety—and put themselves at risk of serious danger.

This year has proven that we are not even safe when there is daylight and that walking in groups significantly increases our safety, yet our community has people that are clearly mentally challenged left to wander unsupervised. If a young college student cannot protect him or herself, how can we expect someone mentally handicapped to?

This all seems destined for tragedy. "Shutter Island" was scary, but the real horror is when we let reality (the criminals who are willing to rob any of us at gunpoint) strike on the innocent. I cannot offer a solution, but it is better to raise an issue than say nothing at all.

Kevin Stevens is a senior English major from Lyndhurst, NJ. He can be reached at

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