By: John Sales and Shjon Stamps
Two days after Valentine’s Day an ODU student was shot on Bowden’s Ferry road, two blocks from campus. A week later ODU student Paul Johnson died after a beating across the street from Dragas Hall. On March 28, three people were robbed in the 1300 block of West 39th street, a short walk from campus. Two of them were ODU students. Since January, 150 crimes have been reported to the ODU police, at least 20 have been violent crimes, including assault, robbery, rape, and murder. Not only students, but also area residents, are increasingly concerned for their own safety. But they differ on who is to blame and how to fix the problem. Students tend to blame crime on low-income areas surrounding the school and believe the criminals emerge from that environment to prey on them. The people who live in the area see transient students – unconcerned about their neighborhoods – as the problem. Both seem to blame police. “The ODU police need to focus more on the surrounding areas of ODU rather than the students and their parties, ” said Kiersten Fawell, an ODU student who has lived in the Lamberts Point area for three years. Older residents feel that students invite crime and draw a criminal element through excessive drinking and parties. They also feel that students are reckless and take imprudent chances. “If the students and police truly wanted to deter crime they should lessen the parties and become a bigger part of the community,” said Mrs. Durham, a 15-year resident of the Lambert’s Point neighborhood.
Criminal justice experts say crime results from many causes and suggest that both students and residents are right. ODU isn’t located in the safest of areas. There is an extreme divide in income and property values in neighborhoods around the campus with million dollar mansions on the river to the north and small clapboard houses to the south. Violence has erupted during a number of off-campus parties, which affects the entire community as a whole. It is up to the community to work together in order to help alleviate the problems. As Thomas Harris, a 38 year resident of Lambert’s Point and newly elected president of the Lambert’s Point Civic League, said, “We need to build up the area; we need to come together.”
Click here for an interactive crime map displaying crimes in Lambert’s Point from 2011 – 2013.