Over the past month, Mercer students have seen a rise in criminal activity in the area. More importantly, several of these recent criminal acts have directly affected students on the Macon campus.
During the month of September, a car was reported stolen from behind Jittery Joe’s Coffee, two law students were mugged walking from downtown, two students were physically assaulted during a home invasion and seven cars were broken into in the parking lot directly across from the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity house.
Over the summer, a law student was murdered and another female was kidnapped on Montpelier Avenue.
Mercer students were the victims of all of these crimes.
Larry Brumley, Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communications, said, “All of these incidents are unrelated. They didn’t have any relationship as far as we know.”
All but two of these acts occurred off-campus.
Gary Collins, Chief of Mercer Police, said, “You can’t stop crime from occurring and some of the things that have happened, unless an officer was there, there’s no way they could prevent that crime.”
The fact that these acts involved Mercer students as victims has raised awareness about crime in the city of Macon. “These are Mercer students being victims of crime. When it gets close to home you look more closely,” Collins said.
The stolen car, which was originally reported stolen to Mercer Police, has recently been recovered undamaged by Macon Police. Chief Collins said that there were occupants in the car when the police found it, but the incident is still being investigated.
We haven’t had one of those [incidents] in years,” said Brumley.
Two law students were the victims of a mugging in downtown Macon less than a month ago. The incident occurred after midnight while the two were walking home from a bar.
Chief Collins urges students to utilize transportation resources available to students and not to walk home in these areas. Students can use the Mercer Trolley system or call a cab.
“We cannot control the city of Macon. Call 9-11 immediately if you are off-campus and students can call us if they are in close vicinity of campus.”
While Mercer Police do have jurisdiction within several miles of campus, they cannot police the entire area. “Our main focus is campus,” Collins said.
On Sept. 20, two Mercer females living off-campus were the victims of a home invasion. Both students were transported to the hospital and suffered injuries from the assault.
Since the incident occured, the victims have terminated their lease and Mercer has provided the students with on-campus housing. “Dr. Pearson handled the details of the on-campus housing after the incident and they took him up on it.” Brumley said.
While many students face the issue of the affordability of on-campus housing, the Macon Police Department urges students interested in off-campus housing to call the City of Macon for crime statistics in these areas.
“There is a reason why these houses are cheap,” said Brumley. “We don’t have the jurisdiction to patrol these areas.”
“Before you sign a contract, check crime statistics,” said Chief Collins. “Look for a gated community with security.”
Mercer University President, Bill Underwood, hopes to implement a four-year-housing requirement in the future. Brumley said that, while safety is not the main reason to implement this new requirement, it does give more control to the University and provide students with greater security and safety.
“Our highest priority is safety, but students, faculty and staff have to do their part and make wise decisions,” Brumley said.
Currently, University officials are meeting to come up with a more effective way to educate students on safety.
Seven students were also the victims of car break-ins on campus. “Mercer Police apprehended the suspect and most of the stolen items were returned to the victims,” Collins said.
He advises that students not leave change out in the open for people to see, GPS devices, phone charges or even mounts for GPS systems.
Currently, there are no cameras in the parking lot in which these cars were located.
The University is not held responsible for covering the cost of damages to these vehicles and students’ insurance policies will have to replace the windows.
If the defendant is found guilty, restitution can be ordered to all victims involved in these break-ins.
“Macon has its up and downs and I’m certainly hoping that the crime rate starts declining. Macon Police are hoping to get youth involved in good things. I think if these new programs are put into effect, it will help a great deal,” Collins said. He said that Mercer Police do their best to eliminate crime, but some incidents are inevitable.