Students living near the University at Buffalo’s South Campus are on edge following a series of knifepoint robberies on campus and in the neighborhood, including an attack late Thursday afternoon that sent a female student to Erie County Medical Center with stab wounds.
“I’m very concerned. When that stabbing happened, it was at 5:30 and I walked home at 6 p.m. the same way. It could have been me. It’s scary,” said Charice Wallace-Hill, a graduate student in social work.
The stabbing victim was listed in fair condition and did not suffer life-threatening injuries. The attack was the latest of six robberies or attempted robberies since Nov. 17 on or around the South Campus. Victims in the other incidents, which also involved a suspect with a knife, were not injured.
[Related story: Female student stabbed near UB South Campus amid rash of robberies]
Some students said the robberies have made them much more vigilant of their surroundings as they walk to and from campus. Wallace-Hill makes sure to call someone on her cellphone as she walks between campus and her Minnesota Avenue apartment. Kareyne Mendez gave up late shifts at her campus job and takes Metro Rail home instead of walking. Jay Chen has found himself walking more briskly and removing his headphones, even though he said the incidents don’t scare him.
“A little bit, maybe, but I’m from the Bronx, so I’m kind of used to it,” said Chen, a sophomore computer engineering major who lives with several friends in a house on Lisbon Avenue, just a few houses away from where the stabbing happened.
With its large and plentiful duplexes, University Heights is home to thousands of UB graduate and undergraduate students because of its proximity to the South Campus, where the university has its School of Nursing, School of Architecture and Planning, Dental School and School of Social Work. Undergraduates who primarily take classes at the North Campus also choose to live in University Heights because it’s so much cheaper.
Mendez, a junior who transferred to UB this year, began taking extra precautions even before the reports of the robberies became public. She said she was followed by an unknown male after finishing up work on campus one night in September. When she started running, the man chased her until she was able to lose him by running in front of a car, she said.
“I don’t walk at night. Not anymore,” she said. “I take the train.”
Wallace-Hill said she’s had to walk to and from campus, because her car needs repair and she suffered a concussion and is not able to ride her bike.
“I have a panic attack every time I’m walking. I have to call someone while I’m walking,” she said.
UB officials this week sent out a statement urging students not to walk alone and to use the university-sponsored SBI safety shuttle to get home.
Wallace-Hill is aware of the shuttle, but she said it doesn’t run often enough to make it convenient.
“I’m getting my car fixed Monday, so I won’t be driving anymore,” she said.
Still, several of the robberies happened as students walked to or from their vehicles, either in a parking lot on campus or outside their apartments. And Wallace-Hill acknowledged that her car has been broken into on several occasions.
Wallace-Hill and other students who live in University Heights said they chose the area because it’s so much cheaper than living on campus.
“It’s close to school and it’s cheap and I can’t afford to live somewhere else,” said Wallace-Hill, who shares and upstairs apartment with Mendez and two other women.
Chen estimates he saves $600 per month living off campus with his own bedroom, as opposed to being in a dormitory, where he would have to share a bedroom with two other guys.
Despite the recent robberies, landlord Richard Parke maintains that the University Heights neighborhood has never been safer.
“The rents are going up and the bad people are getting pushed out,” said Parke, who owns or manages seven properties on Lisbon and Minnesota. He was in the neighborhood on Saturday with his dog Stella to respond to a report of no hot water at one of his properties.
Absentee landlords have been selling off properties to owners who invest in upkeep and security, including better outdoor lighting, he said.
Some students also said they thought the neighborhood was still relatively safe.
“There’s a lot of police presence,” said Sasha Demenezes, a pharmacy student who was playing fetch with her miniature Aussie on the lawn of her Lisbon home. “The road is quiet and the cops are through here a lot. It feels safe.”