School is out for summer, but crime knows no vacation near Tulane University.
Early Thursday morning, three students were beaten and robbed of their belongings, the latest in a string of muggings over the past three months that have highlighted safety concerns for the school.
In the latest incident, three male students — ages 19, 20 and 21 — were at a local business when they got into an argument with two other men and decided to leave, according to Tulane University Police Department Superintendent Jon Barnwell.
As the three men walked in the 7300 block of Oak Street near Broadway about 12:45 a.m., the two men followed them and rekindled the dispute. One of the two punched one victim in the face, causing him to lose consciousness, and then the other two victims were beaten until they could no longer move, police said.
One of the victims told police that he awoke to see the assailants going through his friend’s pockets while he was on the ground, according to NOPD spokesman Frank Robertson, After stealing wallets and money, the two men fled.
Two of the victims were taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening; the third refused medical attention.
According to a Tulane crime log, the beatings follow a number of other serious crimes that have been reported to campus police.
On or near the Uptown campus, there was a battery on a school official outside the Reily Student Recreation Center on June 29, an aggravated burglary in the 1700 block of Broadway on June 14 and an armed robbery in the 1100 block of Pine Street on May 19.
The Uptown Messenger also reported on a Sunday incident in which a student awoke to find an intruder with his hand over her throat in her bedroom, but she was able to scream and he fled.
Near Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in the Central Business District, there was a simple robbery in the 1300 block of Canal Street on July 5 and an armed robbery on Cleveland Avenue on July 4.
Barnwell acknowledged that Tulane’s campus can present “a target-rich environment for certain crimes.” But he said he does not see crime trending upward on and around the campus.
“It’s just a random situation where we’ve had a few incidents back to back,” he said.
He said his department “is working with NOPD, and NOPD’s developing strategies to address that.”
NOPD crime statistics reported to the FBI show that in the first quarter of 2015, crimes against people in the department’s 2nd District, which covers Uptown, were down 17 percent. Property crime, however, was up by 6 percent.
WVUE-TV recently reported that armed robberies in the 2nd District rose from 25 in the first six months of 2014 to 42 in the first half of 2015.
Second District Cmdr. Paul Noel argued at a Wednesday NOPD leaders meeting, however, that those numbers pale in comparison to crime figures from a decade ago.
“While armed robberies are up this year, we’re still in a really good spot,” Noel said.
A series of armed robberies in and around Tulane in 2011 prompted campus police to increase their off-campus patrols and to increase the number of campus Safe Ride shuttles so students would have shorter wait times before being picked up.
Barnwell said the number of Tulane police officers on duty during the summer is the same as in the rest of the year.
He recommended that students travel in groups and be aware that consuming alcohol can make it more difficult for them to be aware of their surroundings.
“Right now what we are seeing again is some unfortunate incidents of crimes of opportunity where people are being victimized, and it’s really no fault of their own,” he said.