Cari Goldman still had her first DukeCard when she graduated. She fought with her roommate over keeping the blinds shut. She took every precaution in the book. She was Duke's least likely victim of assault.
But that did not stop her from falling prey to a two-and-a-half-hour assault and attempted rape last February, which five months later she reflects on with concern and advice for other students living off-campus.
"I'm living in New York City now, but I think I would be more scared to walk alone in Durham than here," Goldman said. "There is only so much a responsible student can do<everybody has to work together. Durham [crime] is not something that can be conquered in a day, but [conquering] it is also not something that cannot be done."
Goldman laid responsibility at the feet of not only students, but also the University and area landlords. Goldman currently is suing Erwin Square Apartments, her former residence where the attack occurred, for not providing adequate security for its tenants, of whom many are female Duke students.
"Landlords have to be aware of crime-I don't understand how they could not be," she said. "It should be their job to know what is going on."
Since the attack, those in charge of Erwin Square Apartments have installed flood lights in the parking lot, secured window screens, employed a police officer for on-site security and started citing people who prop open doors. Rumors circulated among tenants that the apartment was discontinuing employment of the officers who guarded the apartments during dark hours. The officer, Durham police Officer Lawrence O'Brien, said his last day was scheduled as July 20, until July 19, when officials decided to renew the contract. Erwin representatives would not comment.
Belmont Apartment Business Manager Marty Snyder said the gated complex has not yet filled the vacant position of a security officer that it hoped to fill this summer.
O'Brien, who saved Goldman from her attacker in February and has since guarded Erwin, said female tenants have told him that his presence has made them feel more secure, particularly in returning to the complex after dark.
"Living alone, I would not feel comfortable without security," Erwin resident junior Wallis Avalone said.
O'Brien recommended that students planning to move off campus contact the Crime Analysis Unit of the Durham Police Department, which can inform students of how much and what type of crime has been reported in different locations. After they move in, Crime Prevention Officers can walk them through their new residence and make location-specific safety recommendations.
Above all, he recommended that students take personal precautions. "Even in the good areas, if you are not careful, you are inviting yourself to become a victim of crime," O'Brien said.
The University has plans to create a website this fall that provides students with information on the safety of off-campus areas, similar to the service the Crime Analysis Unit offers, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations John Burness said. The University also is co-sponsoring an initiative to encourage Durham police officers to live in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding East Campus.
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"Off campus is very different than a campus situation, where we have Duke police there to keep students safe," Burness said.
Goldman, who graduated in December and had returned to campus last spring to enjoy the remainder of her college experience, said the University<which had posted Erwin on its website as an off-campus living option<should take a more active role in protecting its students.
"Duke needs to educate students on how unsafe Durham is,"
Goldman said. "Given the incident in Erwin with me... the University ought to put some pressure on Erwin, on all the places where they know students live. People can lose sight of the fact that there is a place beyond Duke at Duke, and that they need to be careful."