By: Aaron Singer  | 

Wilf Campus Needs More Security Presence

You never think something rare will happen to you until it does. This past week, I was taking the 1 train from Penn Station to 191st St. with my wife when we realized the service was interrupted after 148th St. We got out of the subway at 125th St., hoping to catch a bus ride. The night would end with our catching a ride in a police car.

As we got off the subway at 125th, a man held the door for us. We had a lot of belongings, including two suitcases, so we thanked him and walked toward the station exit. The man followed us, first asking and then demanding we give him $10 for his favor. We kept walking, pulling our suitcases along behind us, but the man got more and more aggressive. I started noticing that we were getting concerningly close to the tracks, and another train was coming. We were walking as fast as we could when the man grabbed the suitcase in my hand, attempting to yank it from me. My wife screamed at the man to stop, and I was able to hold on to the suitcase and tug it away from his hand.

We ran up some stairs and a woman showed us a badge and said she was an undercover police officer; after we blurted out what had happened, she and her partner went to arrest the man. The man tried fighting off the arrest, but backup officers quickly arrived and were able to subdue and handcuff him. The police officers were even nice enough to give us a ride home after we filled out some paperwork.

This happened on Saturday night, and I thought I had learned my lesson: Bad neighborhoods are dangerous, and an extra level of alertness and protection can be necessary depending on the location. But what I didn’t realize is that not all bad neighborhoods are unfamiliar.

Around 8 p.m. the following Tuesday night, less than three days after this whole incident occurred, I was walking along Amsterdam Avenue to Belfer Hall. I looked across the street and saw an eerily similar situation to what had happened to me: a man was aggressively asking a YU student for money while pursuing him down the sidewalk. In a matter of seconds, the man jumped in front of the student, cornering him against the busy traffic of Amsterdam Avenue. I felt myself getting closer to the train tracks.

The student, with fear in his eyes, felt he had no other choice but to run across the street to safety. He narrowly avoided an incoming car and made it across the street. I noticed that I was right outside the YU security office, so I ran inside and told the security guard that there was a man harassing a YU student. I ran back outside with the security guard so as not to lose track of the man, and I saw him approaching another YU student, this time cornering him against the wall of the library.

The student looked terrified, and then extremely relieved and surprised to see the security guard running to get the man away from him. The security guard separated the man from the student and led him off campus toward 188th St. The student kept on walking, and so did I.

What I didn’t realize after my incident near the subway is that seemingly “safe” places, like YU’s campus, are not as safe as they might seem, at least not with the current increase in violent crime in NYC. Without security guards monitoring the campus grounds rather than just the entrances to buildings, I personally don’t think I can feel safe walking around campus by myself. I would add the phrase “at night,” but the incident on YU’s campus occurred in the daylight. Clearly, YU security needs to be walking around campus at all times of day.

These are not isolated incidents. I have seen other similar, albeit less scary situations occur on campus, and I’ve spoken to my peers about their experiences with disturbed people asking for money on campus, but it seems as though the aggression of these people has increased over the past months. In March alone there were two cases on Wilf Campus that were a real threat to the lives of four YU students in total. If chas v’shalom any of these aggressors were armed, the situations may have ended much differently.

During situations of heightened risk, YU has increased security in order to better protect its students. When there was a rise in antisemitic violence nation-wide, YU increased security on campuses and at events. When there were some uncomfortable situations on Beren Campus, security was intensified then as well.   

In 2018, Jewish Activism Club co-president Philip Nagler (YC ‘20) called for more armed security on Wilf Campus. Armed or not, the uniform itself is a deterrent and I trust that our security guards are capable of keeping us safe, as long as they are there when an incident is occurring.

I’ve enjoyed my time at YU. COVID was a major setback for campus life, but the revival was swift and vibrant. If YU wants their students to be safe and happy on campus, they need to increase security presence there, inside the buildings and on the grounds.

Photo Caption: YU Campus Security

Photo Credit: The Commentator