University Bluffs residents are voicing concerns about a lack of security measures at the off-campus apartments following an incident in which a catalytic converter was stolen from a resident’s vehicle on Saturday, Feb. 26. Maddie Detore, the owner of the burglarized Honda Element, indicated that her car was parked in the Bluffs parking lot when the part was stolen.
“When I started my car, it made a loud noise. My friends and I knew something was wrong because we had never heard anything like it before. It sounded like my car was going to explode,” explained Detore. “One of my friends got on the ground to look underneath my car and she noticed that a piece was missing. She took a picture and we sent it over to my dad, who knows a great deal about cars. He immediately saw the problem and realized that someone had sawed off my catalytic converter.”
Detore contacted the Monmouth University Police Department and the Long Branch Police Department, but said that there was uncertainty regarding whose jurisdiction the incident fell under. “I called Monmouth police first and they then directed me to call Long Branch police,” said Detore. “When I called the Long Branch police, they told me Monmouth police needed to get involved because the Bluffs are their property and therefore fall under their jurisdiction.”
Mary Ann Nagy, Vice President for Student Life and Leadership engagement, clarified that the incident falls under the city of Long Branch’s jurisdiction and that the investigation should be led by their police department. “Monmouth University police respond because it’s our student calling, but the lead really has to be the town,” explained Nagy.
“Our police have limited capability when it comes to jurisdiction. They have jurisdiction physically on the campus and in the contiguous streets,” she continued. “When there is a crime, we are not the lead agency. The lead agency is the city of Long Branch.”
Detore noted that she was disappointed with the University’s handling of the situation, stating that she felt as though the Monmouth University police officer who responded to the call seemed “unconcerned.”
“Any time there’s a safety or security issue, we’re concerned,” said Nagy. “I think the challenge that we have at both the Bluffs and the Graduate Center is that those are two locations that are not part of this campus.”
MUPD jurisdiction does not extend to the Bluffs or the Graduate Center. Despite this limitation, Nagy emphasized that officers patrol the Bluffs at least twice during every shift throughout the three different shifts that occur throughout the day.
Although the University is dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of its students, Nagy also indicated that the Bluffs apartments are supposed to simulate an “independent living environment” that helps students transition to a different lifestyle than living on campus.
“You don’t want to live under the guise of the University until you want to live under the guise of the University,” said Nagy. “There’s a balance there. The Bluffs has to be different than campus in many ways because students are demanding that.”
“I live in Eatontown, and I love it and I’m very happy living there. But I’ll be lucky if I see a police officer drive by my house once a week. The catalytic converter can happen on any street at any given time,” she explained. “If you know anything about this issue, it’s becoming a huge problem because apparently there’s some sort of a metal that’s part of the catalytic converter that’s very lucrative right now. It’s very easy to have it cut.”
Still, Bluffs residents have voiced concerns beyond a fear of having their own catalytic converter stolen. No documentation of the incident with Detore’s vehicle was available as evidence to aid in the investigation. Although there are security cameras surrounding the laundry areas at the Bluffs, there are no cameras overlooking the parking lot, leading residents to question the potential for more crimes to occur without sufficient surveillance.
Gabby Gmeiner, a Bluffs resident, leaves her apartment at 4 a.m. for work and explained that she does not feel safe walking to and from her car at that hour due to a lack of security in the parking lot. “If something were to happen, there’s no cameras or blue lights around,” she said.
“There was an incident last semester when a man approached my car in the Bluffs parking lot coming from the direction of the Wells Fargo. He came up to my car from the passenger side and asked me to roll my window down,” described Gmeiner. “I immediately locked my doors when I saw him approaching and I shook my head no. He eventually walked away from my car towards the boardwalk as if nothing happened.”
McKenzie Wasik, another Bluffs resident, voiced her concerns about security at the apartments and what she believes to be the insufficient presence of MUPD. “I got locked out of my apartment one night last year at the Bluffs and I didn’t know anyone there at the time or any of the CA’s. My phone was dead, but luckily I was with a friend and was able to use their phone and sit in their car until I could be let into my apartment. I had to call MUPD multiple times to make sure they were coming and it took them almost 45 minutes to get there,” she explained.
“I have contacted Leahy and Nagy about a range of issues at the school over the years, but I always got sent in circles and nothing ever really happened to address my concerns,” Wasik continued. “I’ve never felt valued or safe at this school due to their overall lack of security and general lack of care for their students.”
Nagy noted that Chief Ortiz, the University’s newly appointed Chief of Police for MUPD, will be asked to do a complete audit of safety and security on the campus to find things to improve upon and enhance in order to create a safer environment for students.
“Any student who has any concerns should sit down with the Captain and with Chief Ortiz next week once he’s settled in,” said Nagy. “If there’s anything we can and should do, we’ll certainly be looking at it.”