November 14, 2011

It’s an A-plus for student in Homewood Security’s ‘classroom’

Christina Warner tagged along on one of the university’s weekly neighborhood security walks, which, among other things, teach students to help thwart crime by keeping their eyes peeled.

Apparently, she’s a fast learner.

Before the hour-and-a-quarter stroll through Charles Village was over, the senior had triggered a police manhunt and was responsible for the arrest of a wanted criminal.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” the Writing Seminars major said last Wednesday, the morning after she spotted a burglar on a rooftop and alerted the walk’s leaders.

Warner, coincidentally a student employee in Campus Safety and Security’s lost and found department and also a co–editor in chief of the Johns Hopkins News-Letter, arranged for fellow Pi Beta Phi sorority members to join the Nov. 8 neighborhood tour and safety information session.

It was just after 8 p.m., about 35 minutes into the walk, when the group of security officers and about 10 students marched into an alley behind the 3000 block of Guilford Avenue, Warner said.

The 21-year-old from Tampa, Fla., had actually been on a walk before, about six months ago, and remembered hearing then that it’s a good idea to keep an eye open for burglars on rooftops.

“So as we came around the corner, I looked up and saw someone up there,” Warner said. She assumed at first it was a homeowner or resident. “But then,” she said, “I saw the person crouch down. And I realized there were no lights on up there.”

Ed Skrodzki, executive director of Homewood Campus Safety and Security, had just informed the group that there had been recent second- and third-floor break-ins in the area, so Warner told Lt. Bruce Miller, Security’s training officer, what she had seen.

Miller looked up and could see the man as well; he alerted an off-duty police officer who was along on the walk. The officer called for backup, and at least three patrol cars were on the scene very quickly, Skrodzki said. The officers went up to the roof, found and identified the man and arrested him.

By then, Warner said, “we were about a block away and there was a helicopter flying overhead. I thought they were kidding when they told me it was there because of what I saw.” Soon, however, she learned that the man had been caught—and that he was wanted for a late-September burglary at the residence of some Johns Hopkins students. He had also been arrested in August for an attempted break-in at another student residence nearby.

Baltimore police said that the arrest spotlighted a close working relationship with Johns Hopkins.

“I think people would be hard-pressed to find any two organizations that have a stronger or more collaborative partnership than the Baltimore Police Department and Johns Hopkins,” police spokesman Anthony J. Guglielmi said. “In addition to our shared camera technology, the Police Department is practically embedded with personnel from both the university and the hospital system, so whenever a public safety situation arises, it is handled timely and seamlessly.”

Skrodzki said that Security has taken students on community safety walks since 2008. Sometimes, he said, neighborhood residents also walk along. A large group of students and officers walking the streets deters crime, he said, and the program teaches students about living more safely in an urban environment.

“The street is our classroom,” he said. “We point out unlocked windows in homes and concealed areas where people can hide. We talk about what to do if you see a suspicious person coming toward you.”

And if the street is Security’s classroom, Skrodzki said, Warner has earned an A-plus.

“She’s a quick study,” he said. “She’s an excellent student.”