Richardson: ASU student death a mixture of Tempe's college, alcohol, revenue - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Richardson: ASU student death a mixture of Tempe's college, alcohol, revenue

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 1:01 pm | Updated: 4:33 pm, Tue Apr 1, 2014.

Another Arizona State University student has died a tragic death in Tempe.

Naomi McClendon, 18, of Manhattan, Kansas reportedly fell ten stories to her death from the somewhat notorious apartment complex known as 922 Place. It’s a privately owned student-housing complex next door to the Arizona State University campus on Apache Boulevard. 922 has gained a reputation as being the place to party. News reports about parties and police have been all too common. Police have said McClendon’s death is possibly alcohol related.

Stories in the Manhattan Mercury, McClendon’s hometown newspaper in Kansas, tell of a bright and energetic young woman. An April 1, 2014, Associated Press story in the Wichita Eagle reported, McClendon “is being remembered in Kansas as an outstanding student at Manhattan High School. She was last year's student body president at Manhattan High School, where her father directs the orchestras and her mother teaches language arts. School staff recalled McClendon as one of the high school's top achievers. She was a member of the forensics and debate team, an editor on the school newspaper and the singer in a rock band.”

It was just a little over a year ago 19-year-old ASU student Jack Culolias was partying just down from where McClendon died. His body was found weeks later in the Tempe Town Lake. Culolias’ blood alcohol level was reportedly .28, two and a half times the legal limit. Three years ago 20-year-old Clare Elizabeth Morris from Colorado Springs, CO, fell to her death from another Apache Boulevard student housing apartment complex down the street from where McClendon fell. Police reported they believed alcohol was involved in Morris’ death too.

McClendon is the sixth, seventh or maybe it’s even the eighth student to die a tragic death in Tempe during the last few years.

If I remember correctly three of the deaths were alcohol related and the rest were murders. There have been so many tragic deaths I’ve lost track of them all.

Who would have ever thought going to ASU would be so dangerous?

Alcohol for the underage and illegal drugs are plentiful in Tempe. Sales tax from booze and hard partying are a source of revenue for Tempe.

Couple alcohol and drug abuse with Tempe’s consistently high crime rate and it’s easy to see why tragedy continues to strike.

The March 26, 2014, East Valley Tribune/ABC15 story, discussed a study which found safest cities in Arizona, reported Tempe continues to have a crime problem above and beyond other East Valley cities. Tempe is ranked 36th safest city in Arizona out of 42 cities examined by movoto.com.

Tempe officials refer to the area where the tragedies occur over and over again as the “loud party corridor.” I call it a sea of crime that surrounds the relatively safe campus of ASU. A sea that can be very rough and dangerous for those who venture into it.

I applaud Tempe’s “Safe and Sober” campaign last August and September that cracked down on crime around ASU. It worked while it was in place. But what happens when the full strength of the Tempe police force supplemented by county and state law enforcement agencies and hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime pay aren’t available week in and week out?

It's time Tempe and ASU officials come up with a permanent and effective fix for the problems that continue to kill.

Too many parents have sent their kids to ASU only to get a phone call or a knock on the door from police to tell them their child is dead.

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