By Tyler Beard
Some students at Towson University who were victims of crimes committed on Burke Avenue in the last year said they are concerned about other students who live in or pass through the area.
Towson senior Rebecca Anderson said she has feared violent crime ever since she was robbed at gunpoint in her car in front of the Donnybrook apartment complex where she lived in December.
“I was held up in my car and my purse and phone was taken through force,” Anderson said. “I felt like I was in a movie because he was wearing all black and had on a ski mask to cover his face. It was a very traumatic experience and he was arrested about one month later.”
Jeffrey Cooke, a junior at Towson, said he understands why criminals target Burke Avenue.
“It’s dark at night, there aren’t many people walking around the side streets, and there are many escape routes in-between town homes and businesses,” Cooke said.
Cooke said he wished there were more cops to patrol the area.
“Instead of (police) sitting near the bars and restaurants, where it is nicely lit and there are many people, police need to patrol the side streets of Burke and the surrounding area,” he said.
Lt. Randy Guraleczka of the Baltimore County Police Department’s Towson Precinct said students feel like crime has risen because of the rise in social media, even though it has been consistent the last 10 years. Students are able to receive crime alerts on their phones and can also check Twitter to see what police have reported, he said.
“Crime issues in central Towson have been a huge focus because of Towson University, the new movie theatre that just opened and also the bar scene, as the capacity of bars have now doubled,” Guraleczka said. “All of this has added to the crime issues.”
Cpl. John Wachter, a public information officer for the Baltimore County Police Department, said police received more than 750 service calls in the Towson area in the last six months. This includes 16 counts of burglary and 10 counts of theft.
Guraleczka said crime is also a problem because of the large population of students that attend the bars in central Towson.
“We spend a lot of time riding around central Towson to make sure everything is OK,” he said. “Groves of students stay at the bars until 1:30 a.m. and we spend time watching the area and seeing that they get home safely.”
However, some students, like Anderson, have decided to avoid the area surrounding Burke Avenue because of prior events.
“I was emotionally affected because I had to return to a place where something terrible occurred,” Anderson said. “I ended up moving out as soon as my final exams were over.”
Cooke still lives on Burke Avenue in a townhouse but said he was more comfortable living in the apartments there.
“I can say with utmost confidence that I felt much more comfortable living in Cardiff (Hall Apartments),” he said. “The extreme proximity to campus, the fact that Cardiff lies directly on York Road, and the mere fact that many college students are out and about at all hours of the night gives the apartment complex a much safer feeling.”
Elyse Taylor, a junior at Towson, said the crime at Burke Avenue made her avoid the area when looking for a place to live.
“It’s a shame that there’s so much crime there because it is a nice place to live because it’s so close to campus,” she said. “But since there’s so much crime, I don’t want to live there.”
Guraleczka encouraged students to stay in groups and not to wander off so that they don’t end up in a situation in which they can be harmed.
“If you aren’t walking straight and you’re on your smart phone, then you are putting yourself at great risk,” he said.