Stabbing of UB student causes terror in University Heights
The atmosphere of the University Heights neighborhood seems more terrifying than ever after a UB student was stabbed outside of her house on Dec.1.
The recent string of incidents in the University Heights neighborhood has left many students fearing for their lives. The assault has intensified students’ pre-existing anxieties about high crime and danger in the Heights including:
●Effective university and Buffalo policing
After the stabbing, the university has increased its police presence, effectively doubling the number of police officers working on South Campus, according to UPD Chief of Police Gerald Schoenle. He said hundreds of cameras have been recently installed on both North Campus and South Campus.
But some students feel police presence in the neighborhood hasn’t been adequate.
“It’s sad because it takes bad publicity for people to do anything,” Alex Chesley, a senior political science major said. “Now all of a sudden people start caring about it.”
Chesley doesn’t think the students have had a strong voice in the Heights until now. He’s going to keep his “head on a swivel” and become more vigilant.
The stabbing incident
The victim, an architecture major who wishes to stay anonymous, was walking home from Hayes Hall at approximately 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 1 when the assault occurred. The student was stabbed eight times across the street from her house on Lisbon Avenue and is currently recovering from the attack.
“I figured since it was around 5 [p.m.] and it’s like rush hour I’d be OK because there’s like a lot of people on the streets,” she said. “It was beginning to get dark but there was like a ton of cars around so I figured I’d be OK and I got all the way to my side door and I had my keys out and I was like 30 seconds away from being inside my house and the guy came at me from the street side running.”
She was stabbed four times in the chest and four times in the back. She was discharged from Erie County Medical Center on Dec. 4 but will not be returning to school for the rest of the month.
After the assailant fled the scene, the victim said she fell to the ground bleeding and screaming until her neighbors heard. When one of her neighbors heard her screams, he ran out of his house, held a towel to her wounds and called 911.
After the assault, the assailant dropped the victim’s items and ran away.
The victim’s perspective
The victim said at first she thought the attacker was just one of her friends reaching over to give her a hug.
“But then he like didn’t stop and he advantaged me and I fell down and at that point he pulled out his knife. He tried to take my stuff but I didn’t want to be victimized so I kind of fought back and then he stabbed me,” she said.
The victim said she did not know the assailant and had never seen him before.
She said she was fully conscious during the incident and in the hospital. Although she was in pain, she wasn’t aware of the extent of her injuries.
She said her lungs collapsed in the hospital, so doctors had to insert tubes into her body to equalize the air inside and outside of her lungs while she struggled to breathe.
“The first night, Thursday I was in a lot of pain and they had to put me on meds but every day proceeding, I got 1000 times better,” she said. “So the next day I had to stay in bed all day and I was in a decent amount of pain but it wasn’t too bad and then the day after I felt a lot better too and I was able to get up and move around a little bit.”
The victim said although she was physically wounded after the attack, the emotional toll hasn’t been heavy.
“Honestly I feel like [my family and friends] have been more affected emotionally than I have,” she said. “A lot of people have talked to me about seeing a counselor and everything that’s available and I’m aware of all the counseling that’s available at UB for free but honestly right now I don’t feel like I need it, but I’m aware that it’s there for me in the future if I feel like it comes to that point.”
The victim’s current academic and living concerns
Korydon Smith, associate dean for Academic Affairs at UB’s School of Architecture, visited the victim in the hospital. The victim said her professors, Campus Living, Judicial Affairs and UPD also visited her.
She said her professors have been very understanding after the attack. She is receiving extensions and waivers for her remaining classwork.
Schoenle sent UPD lieutenant David Urbanek to the hospital on Thursday to conduct an interview with the victim.
“We wanted to speak to her, make sure that she’s OK and to speak to her family and see if there’s any services she needed from the university. So we wanted to be the face of the university,” Schoenle said.
Schoenle said UPD has been “in constant contact” with the Buffalo Police following the attack.
The victim has moved out of her house on Lisbon Avenue and is currently living with her grandmother. Michael Koziej, senior associate director for Campus Living, spoke with the victim after the attack, offering her on-campus living spaces. The victim said she will be moving into Clement Hall, located on UB’s South Campus this weekend.
Recent trend of attempted knifepoint robberies
The suspect is described as a black male, who is about 5-foot-4 inches tall wearing a camouflage jacket, according to the Buffalo Police report. Police believe the suspect may be connected to the other robberies that have occurred in the neighborhood within the last month.
Buffalo Police and UPD believe there may be two possible suspects after investigating the slew of robberies that occurred in November, according to Schoenle.
A UB student was robbed around 7 p.m. on Nov. 21 on LaSalle Avenue, which is roughly two blocks away from Lisbon Avenue. An attempted knifepoint robbery occurred on Nov. 17 at approximately 12:30 p.m. in the Parker lot on South Campus. Two women were the targets of the attack. UB sent out an alert after the incident.
UB sent out another alert just one day later, stating another knifepoint robbery had occurred in the Parker lot.
“We never stop [patrolling],” Schoenle said. “We’re 24/7, 365 days a year. We’re always there. Admittedly our staffing models change when there’s less call for service, less going on campus during the break but we’re there 24/7.”
Schoenle said although some of these robberies have occurred off-campus, UB students’ safety is still a top priority.
“I wish the police though would take the actual violence happening on streets more seriously and worry less about college students partying,” said Joshua Brenner, a senior economics major.
He doesn’t see himself moving though.
“While you can’t have a police officer on every corner of course, we still need our students faculty and staff to be responsible for their own personal safety themselves but having said that it’s our job to do whatever we can to make them safe,” Schoenle said.
After the incident, UB Sub-Board I, Inc. expanded the hours of the Safety Shuttle, a van which drops off students who live in the University Heights. The van ran from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. but will now operate until 4 a.m., according to Schoenle.
Schoenle and associate vice president Barb Ricotta will be meeting with the Safety Shuttle program coordinator to discuss expanding the Safety Shuttle service.
Alyssa Rosenbauer, a senior political science major, thinks more students should utilize the shuttle service.
“Obviously, the goal is that we have no one be the victim of a crime but that’s not likely to happen but we want to do what we can to educate people for their own safety,” Schoenle said. “Sure we want to catch the individuals that did this crime, that’s a big priority but even more important there’s always the criminal element everywhere in society and we want to make sure we protect our students from a crime prevention perspective moving forward.”
Chesley feels Buffalo police in the Heights are “just for show” because they have come to his house after a call and “don’t do anything.” He said one time he called the police and they never came. He feels UB should put forth more resources to stop the robberies and burglaries.
“You have a cop car just going down the street real quick,” he said but he can’t say he’s seen more police presence and he knows the answer to these incidents isn’t going to be easy. He thinks foot patrolling would be beneficial instead of “driving down the street real quick.”
UB students’ fear in the Heights
Chesley is afraid after hearing about the stabbing and after being burglarized seven times since July. He was robbed a week before the stabbing and feels like people can get away with anything.
He has spoken to University District Common Council Member Rasheed Wyatt and told him something bad was going to happen to have the students’ voices be heard.
Chesley chased a burglar who threatened to shoot him out of his house with pots and pans and said the police “never ended up doing anything.”
Chesley lives on Winspear Avenue and said it’s worrisome the stabbings happened right behind his house. He said some people are even putting bars on windows because they find locking their doors isn’t enough.
“At what point do we have to build up a fortification around our houses just to worry about people not breaking in? Why is that something we have to even worry about? What do you want me to build a moat and a drawbridge? At some point, something has to be done,” Chesley said.
Chesley doesn’t want to live in the Heights again but will because he said it’s the
cheapest living he can find.
Many of the victim’s roommates, including Maria Bautista, a senior architecture major, are moving out of their Lisbon Avenue home.
Bautista now feels like she’s in more danger than ever.
“I lived in the same house since sophomore year and I never felt bad,” Bautista said. “I would sometimes walk home by myself at 3, 4 or 5 in the morning and I never felt an issue until this semester. Now at all costs I try to avoid walking home or try to get a ride.”
Melissa Dell’Amore, a senior health and human services major, was in shock when she heard about the stabbing and never thought violence in the neighborhood would be this extreme.
She doesn’t feel entirely safe living in the neighborhood and plans to move to North Campus next year.
Bautista said she began to contemplate moving out of the house after one of her roommates were robbed at gunpoint two months ago.
Brenner lives on West Northrop Place and likes staying “blissfully unaware” of the stabbings. He has talked with his roommates about getting pepper spray or “some sort” of weapon even though they aren’t pro-guns.
“It’s frightening to see such violence is happening so close to us,” Brenner said. “It makes me not want to stay out late. I’ve been making sure I don’t walk home after dark. It’s even more troubling it’s happening in the daytime when we should feel safe and we’re not.”
Brenner believes he could be a target but thinks women are more targeted.
He never feels safe especially since his house was broken into in October. Even though he wishes the community has less violence, he feels the University Heights is a “great” place to live.
Both Brenner and Dell’Amore plan to remain vigilant and not live in fear.
Students in the School of Architecture had a school-wide meeting on Dec. 3 where they discussed the incident and safety precautions to prevent future attacks. Omar Khan, department chair of the School of Architecture, Korydon Smith and UPD discussed the incident and how to be alert.
Students also voiced safety concerns and asked for accommodations, such as closer parking lots and overnight parking.
Schoenle said UPD has also spoken with several departments, schools and students studying on South Campus.
Both the victim and Bautista said the School of Architecture united after the incident. Bautista said students are exchanging phone numbers and offering each other rides home to ensure they are safe.
“I guess I just learned that I’m super lucky to be part of the close-knit family of UB architecture and I’m so lucky to have the friends that I have and the family that I have because they have all been so supportive throughout this entire situation,” the victim said.
Roughly 200 UB students have been using safety devices to prevent muggings. The Sound Grenade and the ROBORanger, the world’s smallest personal safety alarm, designed by ROBOCOPP is documented to prevent dangerous situations. Both can be attached to a keychain and deter attackers when sounded. The ROBORanger is a 130 decibel alarm with 24/7 connection to 911 response and the Sound Grenade is an ultra-compact 120 decibel alarm.
“Our thought is that technology can be doing so much more for your personal safety,” said Jill Turner, public relations director of ROBOCOPP.
More than 100 campuses in the U.S. are using this device, according to Turner.
Some students see themselves using this device especially after the stabbing incident.
Rosenbauer said she would use the device and has thought of buying mace or pepper spray to feel safer on her walks home on Winspear Avenue.
“I think something worse is going to happen,” Chesley said. “They still haven’t found the new guy. Winter is coming up, kids are moving out, so mark my words there’s going to be a huge rash of break ins, like literally hundreds, not even lying to you when I say hundreds.”
Ashley Inkumsah and Hannah Stein are senior news editors and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org