VCU grapples with crime spree near campus

Posted at 8:52 PM, Oct 09, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-09 20:52:46-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Many students walking around VCU's main campus Tuesday said they cannot help but think of the crime spree that happened 24 hours ago.

"I listen to emails they send out about safety. I try not to be out by myself when it gets late," Katie McClay, a student at VCU told CBS 6 News' Sandra Jones.

Another student, Charlea Johnson, said she and her friends always walk in a group for safety -- and that they have never been approached by anyone.

However, VCU police said an employee and four students were confronted by a gunman in separate crimes Monday night, all within a two-hour period.

The crimes happened on or near the school's Monroe Park campus and prompted school officials and police to speak out.

"I am deeply concerned about not being able to focus on a mission that matters desperately to the Commonwealth of Virginia because of something that is frankly unsettling," said VCU President Dr. Michael Rao.

At a news conference Tuesday, Rao and police Chief John Venuti told reporters their first priority is making the campus safe.

"We devoted a lot of resources for this entire semester focusing solely on robbery suppression, robbery prevention," Venuti said.

Additionally, Venuti believes the violence is isolated to the campus., but cannot say  if the same person is involved.

He says vcu police will be beefing up patrols, increasing safety escorts and sending out text message alerts to keep students and staff informed.

"I really think that - that information arms members of this community with that information that they need to make the right decisions to the steps that are necessary to ensure their safety," said Chief Venuti.

But Venuti says often times, students are slow to respond, making it harder for police to catch the suspects. That's why he urges students and staff to call police when you see anything suspicious.

Venuti believes VCU students may be easy targets.

"I think that's something that people think that VCU students have all these properties and values," said Chief Venuti.

And some students we spoke with say they're not letting their guard down.

"Try your hardest not to be by yourself. If you're going to be by yourself. Don't go down alleys or streets where the street lights are out," Charlea Johnson.

"I think it's about time and being conscious of your surroundings too," said Jakwame Carey.

Rao and  Venuti met with Mayor Dwight Jones and his senior staff, and Richmond Deputy Chief Eric English to come up with ways to assign extra manpower to neighborhoods around VCU to make sure the school's campus is safe.