Richardson: Time for Tempe to fix university-area crime issues - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Richardson: Time for Tempe to fix university-area crime issues

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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: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 10:13 am | Updated: 8:42 am, Wed May 8, 2013.

‘Had I known about the crime problems around Arizona State University I would have never let Kyleigh move to Tempe.” Those are the words of Karen Montenegro, the mother of murdered ASU student Kyleigh Sousa.

Another ASU student has been murdered in Tempe. On April 23, Rebecca Kasper, a 19-year-old sophomore from Minnesota, was found beaten to death in her apartment across the street from campus.

News reports tell us her ex-boyfriend was arrested after turning himself into police and that there had been incidents of domestic violence resulting in bruising and a black eye to Kasper, in addition to criminal damage at her apartment. Questions about why her injuries and apartment damage went undetected or unreported to police or university officials have yet to be answered.

Kasper is the third ASU student to have been murdered in Tempe since 2010. Sousa and Zachary Marco were murdered months apart and just blocks from where Kasper died.

The student-human tragedy doesn’t stop with only those who become the victim of specific crimes.

In December, 19-year-old ASU student Jack Culolias was found dead in the Tempe Town Lake and in 2011, 20-year-old Clare Morris fell off of the balcony of her apartment near campus. Both deaths have been linked to alcohol.

Since the beginning of the 2012-13 school year there’s been a steady stream of reports about out of control off-campus parties, rapes, assaults, a student being seriously burned at a fraternity party and what Tempe police have called “gang-style attacks” involving students.

Sunday night, ABC15 and the Tribune reported four people were arrested at a Tempe near campus fraternity party where five ASU students were assaulted with bats and handguns were fired. One student sustained a serious head injury.

This year — or the 2012-13 school year for that matter, is not unique when it comes to crime and student victims.

The Tempe police website shows the ASU campus as an island surrounded by a virtual sea of crime; Tempe violent crime rose more than 12 percent from 2011 to 2012.

I haven’t read of regular incidents of death and violence at or near ASU’s residential campuses in Mesa, West Phoenix and Downtown Phoenix, where there are more 25,000 students.

So why is it happening in Tempe?

The old guard that’s overseen law enforcement and public safety policy at ASU and in Tempe for years may not be able to “see the forest through the trees.”

There needs to be a new plan.

ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice has helped design anticrime programs for Mesa and Phoenix police. The university’s School of Social Work, Geographic Information Systems, Sustainability and Decision Theater programs could be valuable contributors in the design of new anticrime and safety programs that are suited for a city with a major university located in a high crime area.

ASU and Tempe could also learn from Mesa police to see how new anticrime methods have been implemented with the involvement of the East Valley Fusion Center to drop crime and violence.

ASU could ask for assistance from the Arizona Department of Public Safety and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to increase off-campus patrols and targeted enforcement efforts where students live and socialize.

Historically Tempe has blamed ASU for its crime problems.

Tempe can blame all they want, as long as it fixes what’s broken.

I can only imagine what its like to send a child away to ASU for an education only to have them come home seriously injured or in a casket.

What I do know — and I say this as the parent of an ASU student — is I worry about her safety when she’s involved in activities around the campus.

Montenegro told me last week that she was “naive sending Kyleigh away without looking into the crime rate of that area. Parents need to do their homework before sending their precious child to attend school.”

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