Assault at The District rattles ODU residents

Old Dominion University student Nina Suggs said the alleged attack and robbery of a fellow student in Suggs’ apartment complex was the final nudge she needed to move.

“I’m so fed up with living here,” she said Friday. “With the rape and break-ins, I need to go and find some place quieter.”

Safety – or the feeling of the lack of it – is the buzz among students living at The District, a privately owned complex near the college. Residents need an access key to enter the building, but several admit that nonresidents can easily walk in behind them without being questioned.

An ODU senior, who asked to be identified only as Hudson – his first name – said that on April 9, three men forced themselves into his apartment, with one holding a gun to his head while others robbed the place. They left him with injuries including a broken nose. He has vowed to never return to the university.

Suggs was bothered that Asset Campus Housing, which owns The District, didn’t alert residents immediately after the assault. A crime alert email did not go out to residents until a week later.

On the same day, management posted to its Facebook page several messages about safety, including a note that stipulated the apartment was not owned by the university, and as such, was not required by law to follow the same rules regarding student notification.

“We encourage our residents to keep themselves updated with crime in the vicinity by going to www.norfolk.gov,” it read.

Also posted: a list of crime prevention tips from Norfolk police and another note that stated, in part, “Unfortunately, there are certain circumstances that are unavoidable. We do encourage residents to continue to use personal safety precautions.”

According to ODU’s daily crime log, 10 incidents have been reported at The District since the beginning of the year, including a sexual assault, a hit-and-run property damage case and a curfew violation.

The complex is included in the university’s report because Norfolk and ODU police share patrol jurisdiction in some areas surrounding the university.

Student security has been an ongoing concern as the school and entities supporting it, including housing, expand into neighborhoods long known for crime.

The District had problems even before it opened in 2010; at least five times during construction, thieves stole copper wiring worth thousands.

In the summer of 2011, city inspectors conducted a late-night unannounced visit and found problems with the fire alarm system, unauthorized people entering and no security guards at the door.

Management later fixed the alarm systems and exterior doors and added more security guards.

Last April, however, a security guard was charged with raping one of the residents.

Teon Lewis, a sophomore who lives at The District, said he sees security guards at the doors only on the weekends.

Lewis said he sees security cameras around the building but isn’t sure whether management is using them to track down people who are committing crimes.

“I don’t feel safe here anymore,” he said.

Norfolk police said the April 9robbery is an active investigation and are asking for help. Anyone with information is asked to call the Norfolk Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP (562-5887) or TEXT: “NORFOLK” and tip information to 274637 (CRIMES), or submit a tip at www.norfolkcrimeline.com.

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