Campus Security a Top Priority around Johns Hopkins University

Second murder of student within a year underscores security needs of students both on and off campus


``We have actually embraced the surrounding community because so many of our students live there,'' said Gloria Graham, who oversees the crime prevention and community education unit at the university.

Spelman College in downtown Atlanta, literally, is a gated community, Renita Mathis, a spokeswoman for the historically black woman's college said.

``People who enter onto Spelman's campus come through a gate, and at that gate we have police officers who check to see if cars have either a faculty or student ID or if they are on campus for work-related or meeting-related things,'' she said.

O'Shea said Johns Hopkins has been engaged with community-building projects for years.

Kip Elser, Christopher's father, said he hopes local officials and the university will work together to keep students safe in a city that has changed drastically since he attended the school in the early 1970s. Elser noted that his son and Trinh were both murdered inside apartments, not while walking dangerous streets after dark.

``For an environment to exist where someone walks into a house with the intent of robbing and being willing to murder someone, that doesn't change the fact that that is an environmental problem in the city,'' Elser, of Camden, S.C., said. ``If somebody gets mugged for walking down the street, maybe that's the kid's fault for not paying attention, not going together (with someone). But to be asleep in your bed?''

Earlier this month, not far from the Charles Village neighborhood near the university, a woman who has been outspoken and helpful to police against drug dealers was forced to relocate after her home was firebombed. Six people were arrested in connection with the crime.

Students say they are aware of the city's dangers, and they know the university is trying to make the campus more secure.

``I feel like the school is extremely vigilant,'' Slater said. ``We do try to be careful, but I think there's only so much you can do.''

The university has security orientation programs for freshmen and transfer students and provides programs for students who move off campus. The university underscores the difference between living on campus, where students need identification cards to get into buildings, and living off-campus, when students sometimes only need a key.

``We do understand they are changing environments,'' O'Shea said. ``It's a significant change. That is a transitional thing that people need to get used to when they go into off-campus housing.''