Over the last few weeks, a series of incidents has challenged the feeling of invincibility that so often accompanies life on a college campus. Two Occidental students recently encountered crime both on and off campus in the form of burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. Beyond Occidental, two college students living over 2,000 miles apart––Eloi Vasquez and Jennifer Houle––recently went missing from their campuses.
Crime is a reality in every major metropolitan city, and Occidental students often forget that— just outside of our campus bubble—we are located in one of the largest, most populous cities in the United States. Students feel safe and secure walking within the boundaries of campus, absentmindedly acknowledging Campus Safety Officers Barry and Louis by first name as they ride their Segways through campus. But the reality is a little more jarring: the Northeast Los Angeles Police Department––which serves Eagle Rock and Highland Park, among other neighborhoods––reported a substantial crime increase over the past year. Between 2014 and 2015 to date, robberies have increased by 29 percent and aggravated assaults are up 32 percent, contributing to a 28 percent rise in violent crime.
Even when crime is not spiking, students should still be aware of their surroundings—especially when they have been drinking. Vasquez and Houle each became victims of tragically young deaths, and both are believed to have been drinking prior to their deaths.
Under the influence of alcohol or drugs, individuals’ decision-making is impaired. We’ve all heard this before, but for many students it does not translate to adequate planning when going out. While the bars on York Blvd and the majority of off-campus student residences are within walking distance, this is not an excuse for students—particularly those who are intoxicated—to walk alone.
In the aftermath of the two Occidental incidents, campus-wide alerts advised students to be compliant, not heroic, in the event they are targeted by an assailant. Additionally, students need to remember that, even if they are in the boundaries of campus, they are still very much in Los Angeles, with all the risks that come along with big city life. Employing basic street smarts is essential for every student. Find a group of friends to walk home with. Make (or fake) a phone call. Call Campus Safety. Order an Uber. Whatever the situation may be, safety should be the first priority.