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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Small businesses on 63rd Street affected by local crime

Kimey Moon, who owns Bill’s Market on 63rd Street with her husband, interacts with Sophia Mirza ’21 back in December. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

Students and parents seek information following robberies across from Pennbrook Apartments

Shee Yuan Chinese restaurant, located next to Overbrook train station, was robbed at gunpoint on Nov. 6 and again a week later on Nov. 12. In the restaurant’s 13-year-history, its owners said it has never been robbed before.

A few doors down, Kimey Moon, who has owned Bill’s Market with her husband for 16 years, was robbed at gunpoint in her store on Nov. 12 by a man fitting a similar description of the suspect in the previous robberies. The offender pointed a gun at Moon, demanded money from the cash register and fled with cash. It was also the first time their store had been robbed.

As of press time, there was no arrest for these crimes.

The recent robberies have sparked conversations throughout campus and in the shops on 63rd Street about the safety of the area and the role of the Office of Public Safety and Security in patrolling and communicating crime incidents that occur on campus and in the surrounding area.

Both Shee Yuan and Bill’s Market are part of a strip of stores across from Pennbrook Apartments. The Office of Residence Life calls the area West Campus. It is about a mile south from Main Campus on City Avenue.

West Campus consists of Pennbrook as well as Merion Gardens, an apartment complex primarily for upperclassmen, according to Residence Life.

Owners of the stores said many of their customers are students—234 St. Joe’s students, mostly sophomores, currently reside in Pennbrook.

As Philadelphia Police responded to the robberies on Nov. 6 and Nov. 12, students living in Pennbrook watched from their windows and wondered what was happening. One of the main concerns among students in West Campus was the lack of prompt communication from Public Safety regarding these incidents.

Philadelphia Police outside Shee Yuan on Nov. 12 following the robbery. PHOTO: LUKE MALANGA ’20/THE HAWK

Kyle Knapp ’22 lives in Pennbrook but was not in his apartment the night Shee Yuan was first robbed. When he arrived back on campus, he said he was “shocked” that the incident occurred right across from when he lived.

“My first reaction was, ‘Why didn’t I get any text messages from St. Joe’s?’’’ Knapp said. “There was no alert sent out. I probably wouldn’t have even figured it out if my friend didn’t say anything, so it had me worried a little bit.”

Lauren Rossi ’22 said she saw officers draw their guns in front of Shee Yuan, which made her assume it was a robbery. Her step father, who is a dispatcher out of Camden County, told her the specifics of the incident the following day.

“It was a little terrifying because it’s directly across the street,” Rossi said. “The fact that there were guns involved is a little scary because we are so close to it.”

According to Art Grover, director of Public Safety, the robberies at Shee Yuan and Bill’s Market do not have to be reported in Public Safety reports as part of the Clery Act, which requires universities receiving federal aid to disclose crime statistics and security information, because the incidents took place in off-campus retail establishments and on private property.

The Clery Act also requires timely warnings for Clery reportable crimes that occur within the university’s Clery Act geography that are reported to Campus Security Authorities or local police agencies.

According to the Clery Center, universities should have pre-established policies defining when to notify the campus community of incidents outside of Clery requirements.

The 2019 annual security and fire safety report details St. Joe’s timely warning policy, which states that the decision of whether a notification is issued is a case-by-case determination by the director of Public Safety, or a designee in light of all the facts surrounding a crime, including, but not limited to, the possible risk of compromising law enforcement efforts.

“Although the Clery Act does not define ‘timely,’ the intent of a warning is to enable our University community to protect itself,” the report says. “This means that a warning is issued as soon as pertinent information is available so that it can be used as a preventive tool, and not solely constitutes a description of the incident.”

Grover said Public Safety reports on and notifies students of crime incidents beyond the requirements of Clery in certain circumstances.

“This is a big campus, more than 100 acres and it’s spread out over a long distance,” Grover said. “Judgement is always involved when you’re going to communicate. When we see multiple incidents, patterns or when the police tell us we’d like to let you know about this, we’re going to do that.”

A notification from Public Safety was posted on The Nest on Nov. 14, two days after the second robbery took place at Shee Yuan and Bill’s Market, detailing the incidents and description of the suspect.

SJU Safe, an app with resources from Public Safety, is a new addition to Public Safety’s efforts this semester. The app provides push notifications for safety alerts, but the last notification on the app was a Test of the Emergency Notification system at noon on Aug. 29.

Students like Anna Kalafatis ’22 are urging for more communication. She said St. Joe’s “doesn’t really tell us anything” regarding incidents around campus. Kalafatis, like many other students on campus, relies on an app called Citizen which alerts users of crime in their area. The information is sourced from police scanners and updates on the app are controlled through operators at Citizen headquarters.

A screenshot of the Citizen app showing the alerts from the robbery at Shee Yuan on Nov. 6.

“The Citizen team monitors 911 communications, reviewing every alert in real time before you receive it,” a Citizen spokesperson said in an email to The Hawk. “Citizen keeps you safe and informed by delivering real-time notifications on nearby safety incidents including but not limited to fires, car collisions, and searches for missing persons.”

The app has changed the way community members, including students, learn about criminal activity in their area as updates are now almost instantaneous.

A screenshot of the Citizen app showing the alerts from the robbery at Bill’s Market on Nov. 12.

“It actually told us up to the minute updates of when the Chinese place across the street got robbed and when [Bill’s] market got robbed and when people get mugged at gunpoint and stuff like that,” Kalafatis said.

Area residents were also notified of a reported abduction at the intersection 54th Street and City Avenue on Nov. 22 by Citizen, across from Lannon Apartments and just outside the gates of Main Campus. St. Joe’s Public Safety and Philadelphia Police responded to the incident. Public Safety did not send an alert to students.

That night, students who had seen the reports on Citizen talked with one another about the possible abduction. Some wondered if a student was involved.

After The Hawk reached out to Grover on Nov. 25, he said the incident was unconfirmed and “police reported their belief that the incident may be domestic related.” Grover added that there was no indication that students or any university affiliates were involved in this matter.

Helen Tom, whose daughter, Kayla Tom ’22, lives in Pennbrook, said she found out about the incident in a Facebook group called “Saint Joseph’s University Parent to Parent Connection.”

In the group, one parent said she called Public Safety to see if the incident involved students. Tom said she thinks there should be a more centralized place for students and parents to get information about incidents around campus.

“They’re not children,” Tom said. “But because the neighborhood is not a safe area, the school needs to take a bigger role in that and assume some responsibilities.”

Charles Leone, executive director of campus safety services at Temple University, said Temple sends TU Alerts to students, faculty and staff in events of robberies, fires, power outages and shootings via text messages and emails.

“The patrol area serves as a guide when sending TU Alerts,” Leone said in an email to The Hawk. “We also make quick determinations depending on the totality of the circumstances for sending alerts outside the patrol boundaries.”

La Salle University Public Safety sends out notifications via text message regarding incidents that are within their “Clery Act geography” or off campus within their patrol area, according to La Salle Assistant Vice President of Public Safety, Amanda Guthorn, J.D.

“Decisions for sending out warnings are based on several factors: nature of the crime; continuing danger to the community, and the possible risk of compromising law enforcement efforts (for example, if there are undercover officers working on the incident),” Guthorn said in an email to The Hawk.

Moon and other store owners in the area said they’ve noticed a decrease in patrol from Public Safety beginning this year. Grover said there have been no changes in their deployment or patrol in the area.

According to Grover, Public Safety has seven patrol zones. Patrol zone #29 covers the area of 63rd Street and City Avenue.

“These zones are drawn to provide coverage across the campus and its immediate perimeter of about 100 acres and is supplemented by additional vehicle patrols and armed police which the University hires from the Philadelphia and Lower Merion Police Departments,” Grover said in an email to The Hawk.

Cops in the area frequent Bill’s Market, and many are friends with Moon, she said.

She acknowledged there’s only so much Public Safety and Philadelphia Police can do.

“Even cops, they can only do so much,” Moon said. “They can’t be around here all the time.”

Jennifer C., one of the workers of Shee Yuan Chinese Restaurant who declined to give her last name because her wallet and ID were stolen during the robbery, said she would like to see more of a St. Joe’s Public Safety presence in the area near Overbrook train station, as well as more communication.

“If anything happens in the area, we really want to know what’s exactly happening,” Jennifer C. said. “This community, we’re connected with students and neighboring stores, and safety is the first thing.”

A sign placed on the door of Shee Yuan following the robberies instructs customers to remove their hats before entering. PHOTO: ALEX HARGRAVE ’20/THE HAWK
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