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Safety issues arise at Irish Row

Amanda Gray | Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When the gun initially touched the back of her head on Oct. 29, she thought people were joking around in the spirit of Halloween.


In reality, she was being robbed at Irish Row Apartments, located just across the street from the east side of Notre Dame campus.


“I had the door halfway open to Building Three when two guys came up and put a gun to my head,” she said.


The Notre Dame senior returned home around 3 a.m., according to the student watch alert issued to Notre Dame by Sgt. Pat Hechlinski of the South Bend Police Department (SBPD). The Observer policy is not to release the names of victims of crimes.


She had previously been at a Halloween celebration before the cab dropped her off in the parking lot near her building.


The victim said the distance from the parking lot to the building could typically be covered in a 30-second walk.


She said the two suspects started to pull her away from the building after approaching her from behind.


She fought back, but one of the suspects struck her with a gun, according to the student watch alert.

During the struggle, the victim’s purse strap broke. The suspects left with her purse, she said.


After the suspects left, two students found the victim and called emergency services. The victim received medical and police assistance within 10 minutes.


The victim was sent to the hospital, where she received treatment and was released the next day.

Another robbery occurred on South Bend Avenue on the same night. The student said she believes the suspects from that robbery are the same ones that assailed her.


The student watch alerts listed the suspects for both robberies as African-American males, between the ages of 16 and 25, dressed in black and armed with handguns.


“I never felt unsafe before,” she said. “Part of the reason I moved [to Irish Row] is because it has a reputation for safety.”


The Oct. 29 event would not be her last encounter with criminal activity at Irish Row.


On Nov. 9, she witnessed car vandalism in the parking lot near her building.


“I wasn’t sleeping well and I heard noises,” she said.


She looked out of her window and saw someone breaking car windows in the parking lot. She called the police, but the suspects fled the scene prior to the arrival of the authorities.


“It’s fairly unacceptable for how much we pay to not feel safe,” she said.


Students pay around $445 dollars per month if they are splitting a three-bedroom apartment in Irish Row, or $700 per month if they are splitting a two-bedroom apartment, according to RentND, an off-campus website run by the student government.


“If something happens like [robbery], your security shouldn’t allow a car break in a week and a half later,” she said.


Tom Troeger, one of the owners of Irish Row and Irish Crossings, the neighboring town home complex, said the apartments have multiple security features including cameras and security lights.


“We’re very proud with our security we offer,” he said. “We’ve been lucky with it.”


Troeger said these recent events were the only notable security problems that have occurred in the two years since Irish Row opened.


The student watch alerts said three criminal incidents have occurred at Irish Row in the last month, including the robbery, vehicle vandalism and a bicycle theft.


Irish Row resident James Schwarber, a Notre Dame senior, said students should be more cautious.


“South Bend does have a lot of crime,” Schwarber said. “We’re still subjected to the same sort of risks.”


Schwarber said the entrances to the Irish Row buildings are locked and secure, but the location of Building Three and the parking lot can be safety risks.


“Building Three is set back from the street,” he said. “The parking lot can’t be seen from the street – you can’t see what is going on.”


Schwarber said he thinks the management has handled the incidents well.


“They seem to be pretty responsive,” he said. “I can’t think of any more they could do.”

Irish Row resident and Notre Dame senior Dillon Bailey said the security problems arise on the trips to and from the apartment buildings.


“People are trying to find rides,” he said. “They don’t want to be on foot or on a bicycle.”


Bailey said he believes the number of incidents will lessen when the colder weather sets in.


“It’s almost always a crime of convenience,” he said. “As soon as you take away the convenience factor, they won’t go out of their way.”


Bailey said he and other residents saw the outside door to Building Three could be easily pulled open until a about week ago.


“It took months to take care of,” he said.


Troeger said he was not aware of this problem.


“If there was a problem and we were aware of it, then we would be out there,” he said.


Bailey said he and other residents have seen a police car parked near the apartments and the parking lot for the past several days.


“It has definitely helped everyone feel a bit safer,” he said.


Sgt. Hechlinski said SBPD officers are told at the beginning of their shift the location of events such as robbery and car vandalism.

“They make extra efforts to patrol these areas,” he said. “There is still a dedicated beat car for that area.”

Hechlinski said the best way for students to stay safe is to be cautious and to use common sense.

“If students see something, don’t be afraid to call the police department,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to call us to investigate it. We appreciate those calls.”