The entrance to the Tigerland area in south Baton Rouge appears nearly deserted in the daylight hours: the many bars are dark and empty, the vast parking lots vacant.
Come nightfall, young adults flock to the area, walking from one bar to the next, and sometimes down darkened streets on their way home.
And that, police say, is when criminals see opportunities too plentiful to pass up.
“Criminals target that area,” said Sgt. Donald Stone, police spokesman. “The apartment complexes, the students walking back and forth late at night, they see that as easy prey.”
The Tigerland area^=about seven streets clustered off Nicholson Drive near East Boyd Drive^=has been the scene of some violent crimes in the past months, putting area residents on edge and bringing public attention to dangers of an area best known for its entertainment.
Stone said the hundreds of students who walk to and from the several bars crowded along Bob Petit Boulevard attract criminals looking for victims.
The younger college students typically are less observant of their surroundings, Stone said, especially if they are intoxicated.
Stone said the high concentration of apartment complexes in Tigerland also means there are people and cars in close quarters, making the area appealing to criminals. “If someone wants to burglarize cars, they’re going to go where there are a lot of cars,” Stone said.
Crime statistics for the Tigerland area are recorded in the same subzone as the residences along Burbank Drive closest to Nicholson Drive. Statistics for Tigerland alone are not available.
There were 25 robberies, 116 burglaries and 19 motor vehicle thefts reported in the area in 2010, according to Police Department statistics. Police also investigated a rape in the area last year, statistics show.
Attacks in recent months have been especially violent.
On June 6, two men sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman and beat a 27-year-old man during a home invasion at the couple’s apartment in the 1400 block of Jim Taylor Drive.
Police arrested Joseph Peter Morgan, 25, on June 15 in the incident. No one else has been arrested.
On May 14, a 21-year-old woman was raped on Alvin Dark Avenue as she walked home from the nearby bars about 2 a.m.
Her attacker, described as a bald, heavy-set black man about 6 feet 6 inches, is still on the loose. Stone said police have received few tips in the case, and are asking for the public’s help in finding the attacker.
Stone said the Police Department has officers routinely patrolling in Tigerland.
On the evening of June 15, two police squad cars slowly wound through the streets in Tigerland, rolling past several complexes that ranged from pristine to rundown.
Several people, including a few young families, were strolling the streets, jogging or walking their dogs past a bus stop enclosure scrawled with graffiti.
Baton Rouge native Mark Macmurdo said he didn’t think he was walking through a dangerous area when cutting through Tigerland on the way to the nearby bars Nov. 7.
Macmurdo was walking with Charlie Cangelosi in Tigerland the night Cangelosi was shot late last year when trying to help a woman being robbed.
Without knowing about the crimes in the area, Macmurdo said, he and Cangelosi had a “false sense of security” as they walked through the neighborhood at night.
“It’s just not reported what goes on in that area until something big happens and people start talking about it,” Macmurdo said.
“You have literally hundreds of students walking just two blocks away at the bars, and a lot of students sandwiched in between low-income housing,” he said.
“It’s a bad area, and we need to do something.”
Katie Kennedy covers crime and general assignments for The Advocate. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.