COLLEGE PARK – A campus is an insular place, but not even the columns and brick of the University of Maryland’s buildings could keep out the feeling of insecurity brought by the serial shootings that shocked the region in the past six days.
“I don’t feel safe because someone is shooting people all around us,” said Maryland senior Jason Moore.
Six people have died and two others have been seriously injured in gunshot attacks that began last Wednesday evening and continued Monday when a Bowie middle school student was gunned down. The Bowie incident was 16 miles away from campus in the same county. University authorities have improved security since, with uniformed officers stationed at all campus entrances.
University Police will also make themselves more visible during class changes.
“I feel pretty safe on campus. To me, Maryland is sort of in a security bubble,” said senior Tiffany Harris. “I also heard that there are police at every entrance.”
Some students don’t understand the geography around the campus and do not realize how close the university is in reference to some of the shootings.
“Some people don’t know where anything is around here and only know the immediate area, but when it came to Bowie, that’s just way too close,” said Hyattsville resident and freshman David Rosenfelder.
Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, the site of the most recent shooting, is, with the College Park campus, in Prince George’s County. Campus is also about 10 miles from where James D. Martin was shot at the Shoppers Food Warehouse in Wheaton and 6.3 miles from where Pascal Charlot was shot standing on the corner of Georgia Avenue and Kalmia Street in northwest Washington.
“We are an attractive target. Looking at the victims that have been shot, a college student or a police officer are probably high on a list of targets,” said University Police Maj. Paul Dillon.
Maryland’s counseling center said no student has come in with serious concerns about the shootings.
“The shootings have created a level of anxiety, especially being out in the open on campus, and the fact that one happened in PG County makes it even worse,” said junior Rasheedah Ahmed.
A statement on the university’s Web site said officials feel the campus is safe and all students should “exercise due caution and be aware of their surroundings at all times.”
Maryland’s campus would not be a good choice for a gunman because all escape routes are being watched, police said.
“The positions they could take up are endless, and any escape route covered will discourage someone who did make it onto campus,” he said.
Police are expected to stay on alert for at least the next couple of days and all activities will go on as planned unless individual organizers decide to cancel them, Dillon said. Security measures already in place include a walking escort service, door- to-door shuttle service, and security cameras located in high-traffic areas on campus. – 30 – CNS-10-8-02