By Elise Chretien
Next time you find yourself in North Highland Park, remember to lock your car doors behind you.
Several Richmond neighborhoods have seen drastic increases in burglaries the past year. North Highland Park, Randolph, and Northern & Southern Barton Heights had the highest property crime increases since 2009.
According to Richmond resident Roy Rogers, who lives near North Highland Park, a large concentration of gang and drug activity in the area could be to blame for the high crime rates.
“It’s just not a good area to be in at night, especially not alone,” Rogers said.
Rogers has lived in the area for two years and has seen firsthand how much the area has suffered from criminal activity.
“My next door neighbor’s car was broken into last week. His $400 GPS was stolen, not to mention the window shattered on his car,” said Rogers. “I’m just trying to be careful and not let it happen to me.”
For Randolph resident Stephen Redman, crime at his doorstep is no stranger. Redman, like many college students, rides a bike to and from campus on a daily basis. One morning in June, however, he discovered his bike had been stolen.
“I always left it out on the front porch, and when I came out that morning it was gone,” said Redman. “It was a pretty old bike so I wasn’t that worried about it, I was more pissed about having to walk all the way to work and get yelled at for being late.”
Redman is one of thousands of college students who move to the Richmond area with little or no experience of inner-city crime. Students who have grown up in suburban areas with low property crime rates may not think twice about leaving their car unlocked or their belongings out on the porch.
“I had just moved to the Randolph area a few months before that. My bike was so old and beat up I didn’t think anyone would even think it was worth stealing. I guess I was wrong,” said Redman.
The Randolph area, located less than a mile away from VCU’s Monroe Park Campus, is home to many blue-collar families. Because of its convenient location, many college students choose to live there as well.
Since January, the Randolph area has had twice as man property crimes thatn in all of 2009. Residents are encouraged to keep their cars locked, keep all valuables indoors, and make sure all windows and doors are locked at all times.
Surprisingly, the neighborhood with the highest recorded number of burglaries in both 2009 and 2010 was the Fan. The Fan is a large neighborhood, stretching from Belvidere Street to Boulevard, populated heavily by college students.
With a total of 90 reported burglaries in 2009, and 62 so far this year, the Fan surpasses all other Richmond neighborhoods in total property crimes.
Three-year Fan resident Brittany Smoot has had her share of items stolen while living in the Fan.
Smoot lives in the center of the Fan, on Lombardy Street. Having lived there for three years, she has learned how to keep her belongings out of the hands of thieves.
“When I first moved here I had CD’s stolen out of my car and shoes stolen off my deck. It happened all the time,” said Smoot.
“I wasn’t used to having to lock my car at all times, even if I was just running inside to get something. Now I know better and I know what people will do.”
Despite the high levels of property crime, the Fan is still considered a relatively safe place for students to live.
“I wouldn’t want to move anywhere else,” Smoot said. “You just have to be smart and not careless. You can’t be naïve when you’re living in the city.”