By Jenna Wilson and Razmik Cañas
An alleged street robbery near campus last month raised concerns among student leaders about neighborhood safety.
On Jan. 15, 2017, around 9 p.m. two Fresno State students said they were returning to their residence at Campus Edge when they were robbed of their wallets and phones.
The computer science majors were held at gunpoint within the gated apartment complex located south of Bulldog Stadium on Bulldog Lane by a black male and female who demanded they empty their pockets of their belongings.
The students said they were walking home from the convenience store when the male suspect told James Smith to tell his friend Chris Jones to stop walking and turn around or he was going to shoot him. Both victims real names are being kept confidential to protect their privacy.
The students said the suspects fled the scene after gathering Smith and Jones belongings from the ground.
The apartment complex requires a keypad code to enter, but Smith and Jones said everyone knows the code, or you can just help people get in.
Smith said, “They used to have security there on the weekends. I don’t know what happened. They wouldn’t have done it if there was security.”
Jones said, “It’s a small deterrent, but at least it’s a deterrent.”
The property manager at Campus Edge said there are plans to set more lighting along Bulldog Lane and to eliminate the keypad entry by August. The goal is to make it safer to enter the complex.
The victims said they reported the crime to the Fresno Police Department, but did not report it to the Fresno State Police Department even after visiting the on-campus station and asking for guidance.
“The lady basically didn’t want to get the forum. She said ‘It’s more of [Fresno Police Department’s] deal, because it was off campus,’” Smith said.
The victims believe it is the duty of not only the Fresno police, but also Fresno State police because the complex is so close to campus.
Among other safety issues near campus, Fresno PD sent an email at the end of November, warning students about an apparent serial groper who had struck at University Village and Plaza Apartments near Fresno State.
In December, Fresno State student Deandre Jean-Pierre was arrested on suspicion of groping women near campus. On Feb. 1, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office filed a misdemeanor criminal complaint against Jean-Pierre.
The Fresno State community is being encouraged to take up safety measures and be aware of available resources.
Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), campus administration and campus police are planning a Campus Safety Night Walk this semester. The walk will be aimed at observing areas around campus that need extra attention to increase campus safety.
The walk was announced in December at the final ASI meeting of the fall 2016 semester. It was planned the week of “Dead Days,” but was postponed until the spring semester.
ASI Executive Vice President Blake Zante said that examining areas on campus ahead of time will help prevent future unsafe incidents.
“What we’re looking for [are] areas that aren’t well-lit or areas where students could be susceptible to crime or a robbery,” Zante said.
The areas with high risks will be considered for new LED lighting or emergency call boxes.
Zante is aware that these changes “can’t be fixed overnight” but does want students to help find solutions moving forward. Lack of funding and a shortage of campus police are examples of challenges students can help resolve.
“That’s when it comes to being creative and try to find different ways we can make sure students are still being safe,” Zante said.
According to the university police Annual Safety and Security Report for 2016, vehicle break-ins have been on the rise. Zante himself has been a victim multiple times and said that keeping valuables out of sight helps prevent break-ins.
Participation is needed, Zante said, so students can voice the growing concerns on campus. Zante said a way students can help is through advocacy. Students can help in advocating in support of better funding for campus police to obtain more officers to help.
Zante added that the advocacy doesn’t end on the campus but extends to the neighborhoods in the the surrounding areas. Students who commute from neighboring apartments near the university are concerned with the lack of lighting along the sidewalks of the busy streets.
“Campus PD tries to do the best that they can, but sometimes even with their officers and their whole staff, they can’t cover the whole area,” Zante said.
He recommends students contact campus police when an incident occurs rather than assuming they already know.
“If Campus PD knows it’s happening, then they’re going to spend more time patrolling that area, making sure it doesn’t happen,” Zante said.
Fresno State police public information officer Amy Luna said off-campus housing is the Fresno Police Department’s jurisdiction. She said the university police would also take part, if necessary.
“We don’t want the campus community to hesitate to call us at all. We are always there to assist and take reports,” Luna said. “We are very mindful of what’s happening, and we watch very closely what is happening on the perimeter of campus and how we can kind of help Fresno PD address those issues.”
Plans for a satellite station in El Dorado Park, west of campus, near Bulldog Stadium and Fraternity Row, were said to be underway in September. The plan was to open the station within 30-60 days, said Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd.
Fresno City Council President Paul Caprioglio, who represents the Fresno State and El Dorado Park areas, said, “Fresno State is important, and I believe [a satellite police station] will bring more security for Fresno State students. It absolutely will reduce crime.”
Nearly four months later, the station has yet to be seen.