By Brian StieglitzColumnist
In the month since students moved into their dorms or off campus houses for the start of the semester, there have been three robberies in the streets of Hempstead, our neighboring town. Sirens sound at night, and residents frequently wake up to text alerts of tragedies that occurred just a short walk from where they lay their heads at night. Last year, there was a horrific off-campus tragedy that involved a hostage situation and the death of a student. The stakes are raised each time students leave the gates of Hofstra’s campus. It seems as though Hempstead is becoming even more dangerous to live in or near, and students are concerned as to what Hofstra is doing to make their time here safer and more comfortable.
Before the tragedy last year, the most reliable source of safety in times of crisis was Public Safety’s text alert/e-mail system to alert students of dangerous situations off campus. Students also have the option to call Public Safety themselves if they need a ride back to campus or feel unsafe at any time.
But Public Safety states that it has no jurisdiction as to what occurs outside of the University. The important question now raised is whether Public Safety should become involved in off-campus safety measures, or if it is ultimately up to students to keep themselves safe.
“In the midst of such a tragedy, there should be more improvements to prevent one from occurring in the future,” said junior Monica Lee, who believes that Public Safety needs to solidify and reassess the way they handle dangerous situations. “It seems that the notification system is sporadic.”
“This year, me and my housemates called Public Safety multiple times and were brought two blocks from where we live,” said Becky Moncina, a junior. “In those two blocks we had to walk, there have been a previous robbery and home invasion.”
Many students have expressed encouragement for Public Safety to align itself with the Hempstead or Nassau Police Departments. But what those students don’t know is that Public Safety has already done so.
John O’Malley, the associate director of Public Safety, noted other steps that Public Safety is taking toward student safety off campus. There is a safety task force comprised of a collection of students, staff, faculty, and Public Safety members that aims to address students’ safety concerns. Public Safety is also constructing a path that would allow students to exit campus without ever having to step into the dangerous areas of Hempstead.
Nevertheless, no matter what Public Safety does, it is ultimately up to us to stay safe off campus. A perfect example: the unispans were built in the wake of road tragedies so that students could cross the turnpike safely, but some students still feel the need to run across the turnpike in the middle of the night anyway.
It is imperative that students take advantage of the services that Public Safety offers, but the key to staying safe is being aware of what is going on off campus. It is up to current students to use their best judgment at all times, and up to prospective students to educate themselves as to the dangers that the area holds.