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Safety Forum Suggests ODU Students, Neighbors Keep Talking

By Sarah Hutchins - The Virginian-Pilot - September 9, 2011

Students, landlords, police and nearby residents called for improved safety and stronger student-community partnerships around Old Dominion University on Thursday night.

The city and ODU hosted the forum, called a community converstion, designed to bring together people living near Lambert's Point, Larchmont, Highland Park, Kensington and ODU.

Divided into small group at the Lambert's Point Community Center, about 70 participants brainstormed how they would like the community to look and what they could do to help achieve those goals.

"What would you want people to say about your neighborhood in five years?" Melinda Luchun, a community coordinator for the city, asked a small group.

"I want them say it's a lot safer than it is today," said Lindsey Brocke, a property manager with Warner properties.

"That the neighborhood has improved tremendously in safety and in the quality of housing," added Linwood Daughtrey, a Village Point resident.

Kensington resident Delores Harris said she worried the neighborhood was becoming less family oriented as a result of the dense student population.

"It takes away the sense of community and family," she said.

At least one of the breakout groups agreed that any improvements would require collaboration. Safety, they said, was the responsibility of everyone. However, many disagreed about the root of recent problems, which included home invasions, robberies and shootings.

Brocke said the students she rents to become easy targets, especially on school breaks.

"Crimes, burglaries, break-ins, vandalism are way up because local people know about the students," she said. "They take advantage of them."

"I disagree," said Thomas Harris, a long-time Lambert's Point resident. "College students are putting themselves in harm's way."

Daughtrey worried about "roving criminals" coming to "prey on students."

Police aren't focusing on serious crimes, Brocke said. Instead, she argued, "students feel like the police are out to get them."

"How do you get (the police) to do what you want?" ODU professor Lucien Lombardo asked Brocke.

"You can't," she said.

"You have to do it as a community," Lombardo said.

"We can sit and place a lot of blame," Luchun, the moderator, said. "But that's not the purpose of this event."

As the small group sessions came to a close, Luchun asked the group members what they could do to help achieve their goals for the community.

"We need to get the input from young people," Thomas Harris said. "They need to find out where the civic leagues meet."

"We have two communities within a community," Ferreira said. "We're going to have to make some compromises. We have our own cultures."

Original content from The Virginian-Pilot