High alert: Spike in crime in East neighborhood, Marshall Street causes increased police presence
A rash of crime, including robberies and assaults, has hit neighborhoods surrounding Syracuse University.
For the first time in at least seven years, law enforcement tripled weekend patrol in the East Neighborhood and Marshall Street. Police presence has increased in response to crimes being perpetrated by inner-city gang members and high-school aged students, said Sgt. Tom Connellan of the Syracuse Police Department.
The area east of Syracuse University, which is heavily populated by students, is attractive to inner-city gang members who frequent the neighborhood to sell drugs, case houses and steal from students, said Connellan. High school-aged students from across Onondaga County have also flocked to the area on weekend nights, where they can easily access alcohol at parties thrown by SU students.
“Large amounts of area high school kids are coming up there because they’re able to mix in,” Connellan said.
It kind of makes you feel safe, but it kind of doesn't.
Elijah Seraballs, senior civil engineering major
Since the start of the school year, the Department of Public Safety has issued six email alerts notifying students of various crimes, including robberies, assaults and a stabbing near SU’s campus. A DPS alert issued Monday stated the increased crime is typical for the start of the fall semester.
Three of the alerts detailed crimes that occurred in the East neighborhood. The most recent notification involved a Sept. 14 assault at a Clarendon Street residence, where four “uninvited non-students” began to punch and kick three students after being confronted, according to a DPS alert.
The students involved in the incident declined to comment for this article, but Elijah Seraballs, a senior civil engineering major who lives across the street, said he noticed increased police presence in the area on the weekend.
Seraballs counted three patrol cars in the half-block stretch from the top of the Clarendon hill to Livingston Street during the weekend, a sharp contrast to the minimal police activity he witnessed as a Westcott Street resident last year.
“It kind of makes you feel safe, but it kind of doesn’t,” he said.
The uptick in crime is an added burden for senior information management and technology student Teddy Pace. His house, which he shares with six others, was burglarized Friday night.
Pace and his roommates were with friends across the street when a television, two computers, an Xbox and an iPad were stolen from their Livingston home between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., he said.
“It’s our senior year — we’re literally just trying to have fun, and we have a bunch of friends who live on this street,” he said. “And now this is an extra precaution that we’re going to have to take, because we’re worried.”
Brian Williamson, one of Pace’s roommates, said SPD told him that individuals from the inner-city have targeted the area. Williamson, who lived in the same house last academic year, said the police presence and crime in the neighborhood are greater this year.
SPD and DPS have heightened patrols in the area, issuing judicial referrals and arresting individuals who engage in illegal activity, including serving alcohol to minors, Connellan said.
For the weekend beginning Sept. 15, Connellan said 33 total appearance tickets were issued for unlawful possession of marijuana, sound reproduction, open container violations and alcohol possession under 21. Eighty parking tickets were also given and eight vehicles were towed for outstanding parking tickets.
A greater number of parties in the area than years past has likely attracted more crime, Connellan said.
“There just seem to be more of them and they seem to be a little more out of control this year,” he said.
Late-night or early-morning stabbings, fights, shootings and reports of shots fired on Marshall Street have been reported within the last several months, Connellan said.
While the activity may be traced to some gang violence, Connellan said the increased crime in the area appears separate from issues in the East neighborhood.
Some Marshall Street establishments are open late, drawing trouble in the early-morning hours. Connellan named Acropolis a “focal point” of the late-night, early-morning activity.
“This establishment appears to be drawing a criminal element late at night after the bars close,” he said.
But Steve Papazides, an employee at the pizza joint, said he feels the police department is blaming the restaurant for “inviting” crime.
“We’re just tired of being portrayed as the bad guys,” he said.
DPS issued an alert notifying students of a stabbing in Acropolis’s doorway that took place early Saturday morning involving non-SU students. A 31-year-old Syracuse man received non-life threatening injuries after being stabbed on the right side of his chest.
Once the Saturday morning fight broke out, Papazides said he ushered those involved toward the restaurant’s exit and attempted to break up the altercation immediately.
“I can’t control anything that goes on out there,” he said, adding that the Saturday fight caused property damage, unhinging a table previously nailed to the floor.
A second DPS alert was emailed to students earlier in the week warning that a shot was possibly fired on Marshall Street early Sept. 15. A person was later spotted on video footage with a gun in hand, Connellan said.
Law enforcement began stopping vehicles driving through Marshall Street, which Papazides described as a positive change that should continue.
But for Pita Pit night manager Jessica Humiston, the police presence can be an added nuisance that slows business. While Humiston said she believes crime has worsened in the area throughout the last decade, Pita Pit hasn’t faced any of the Marshall Street-area crime firsthand.
“Why would we be punished for other people’s problems,” she said, adding that customers sometimes seek “asylum” at Pita Pit when trouble brews at the other end of Marshall Street.
Unique Tea House owner Joe Chen has observed much of the same.
Though Unique closes earlier than other establishments in the area, he’s seen nonstudents frequenting Marshall Street on weekend nights, dancing and disrupting traffic in the sliver of road where cars pass and ignoring demands from police to move.
Said Chen: “They don’t care.”
—Asst. Copy Editor Dylan Segelbaum contributed reporting to this article.
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