Staff Editorial: Staying safe

At 1:00 a.m. June 1, two women, one a GW student, were walking back to campus from Georgetown when they were confronted by an armed assailant along 24th Street near New Hall. Brandishing a pistol, the man demanded the girls’ purses. One of the girls, who was not a GW student, handed over her purse. The GW student asked the gunman if she could keep her purse and only hand over her money. When the man agreed, the non-GW student requested her purse back. After she handed over her money, the assailant left with $13. The two young women in this case were unharmed, but their actions exposed them to unnecessary danger.

The incident underscores the importance for all students, especially those encountering an urban environment for the first time, to be aware of their surroundings and take the necessary precautions to avoid being victimized.

GW is foremost an urban university. Brochures and University representatives emphasize GW’s location in the heart of downtown D.C. as an asset, but along with the benefits come some drawbacks. One of these is crime. Students are not immune despite a prevailing “it can’t happen to me” attitude. Being out late at night comes with risks. Travelling alone is never a good idea. And when confronted by someone with a weapon who demands a purse or a wallet, students should do as they are told and not resist or negotiate lest they be seriously injured or worse. The two girls near New Hall were lucky.

Although campus crime is not a rampant problem at GW, statistics show increases in certain serious crime categories. Robberies, the forceful taking of someone else’s property, are on the rise. Aggravated assaults, defined as an assault that causes serious injury, jumped from zero in 1999 to 21 in 2000. Increases in these two categories, both involving the use or threatened use of force, should give all students pause as they travel the streets in and around GW. Also of concern are the almost 600 non-forcible burglaries and larcenies reported in 2000, of which one in 10 occurred in residence halls.

The University Police Department patrols the streets and buildings of GW and does a good job protecting the campus community, but no police force can be everywhere at all times. Ultimately, the onus is on students to minimize their risky behaviors and be careful.

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