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Safety at the forefront

The killing of Ronald Stem, the first on-campus murder since 1994, rattled the community of families and students living at Magnolia Apartments. However, it also unearthed some problems that, if remedied, may have prevented Stem’s death.

“There were reports of vagrants sleeping in the stairwells during breaks,” said a former Magnolia Apartments resident assistant who requested that his name not be printed. “Battery and assault and things like that. Things that can and do happen all across campus, but they seem to occur more often over Magnolia.”

Campus crime is not solely isolated to the areas around Magnolia Apartments, said the RA. Requests regarding the safety around Magnolia have gone unanswered for some time.

“I can recall a number of requests made by multiple RAs to Residence Services and the University Police (for more lighting),” the former RA said. “I wish that it wouldn’t take something as terrible or horrendous (as a murder) to have change occur, but if change was going to occur it would have to after this.”

With plans for a new residence hall in the Magnolia area, safety will likely become a key concern for the University.

“I think the USF campus is as safe as it is going to be right now,” the former RA said. “It is a lot of area to cover. I just hope that we can spread (police presence) more equally across campus, especially if they are planning to build another residence hall over by Magnolia.”

Lindsay Bulman and Jacqueline Pinaud are roommates at Magnolia Apartments. Both are looking for new apartments following the incident Thursday.

“I come in and out of here at all hours,” Pinaud said. “I’m usually by myself, and there is no police. It’s not lighted well, so I don’t feel safe.”

Both Bulman and Pinaud claimed that the area is rife with car theft and burglary, a reputation they learned about through rumors. They both agree that something needs to be done to protect residents, especially at night.

“I know that it would be expensive to be gated,” Bulman said. “When I told my father about it, he was upset because he felt that something should be done in the parking lot that prohibits people coming in off of the street at night. Maybe have some gate feature that could be opened but closed at night. We do live in kind of a bad part of the city, and anybody can wander on here. It’s pretty ridiculous and cops are not willing to have somebody posted every night. If they are not willing to do that, then they need to be willing to do something.”

While the former RA felt that UP did a good job of patrolling the area around Magnolia, he said the residents weren’t instilled with a sense of security.

“There were a lot of people over Magnolia who got off of work late and had very legitimate reasons to have to come across (the Magnolia area), and they should be able to feel safe with where they live,” he said. “Unfortunately, just because of lighting and lack of presence felt – (there was) not necessarily a lack of presence by (UP), but it didn’t feel like they were there all the time.”

Not all the residents at Magnolia feel that the area is dangerous, but most agreed that more lighting is a high priority.

“I think the (lighting) could be better,” Magnolia resident Martha Riggans said. “I think the campus is very safe. There are plenty of officers around, and you can get SAFE Team rides from classes late at night, so it’s pretty safe. This was an isolated incident.”