Guido’s Burritos, Brew River and Cookout are among Salisbury University students’ most popular hangouts.
Each was also, at least once, a crime scene within the last year.
When bars and parties become hotspots for unexpected violence, one solution for those impacted might be to abandon them. For college students trying to maintain a social life, avoiding large gatherings may not be a viable option.
SU can only control the security of its campus but local initiatives such as Bars and Restaurants Against Violence Everyday (B.R.A.V.E.), created by the Life Crisis Center, aim to protect all patrons from harm.
“When people are out celebrating, their guards are down,” B.R.A.V.E. Director Summer Miles said. “People are out more than they used to be, testing their boundaries...trying to get back to normal, and they’re going a little too hard.”
The Life Crisis Center is a local nonprofit agency which provides services and advocates for victims of violence. Miles said alcohol is the most-used weapon in sexual assaults, involved in 50% of reported cases, resulting in the Center’s goal to make bars and restaurants safer.
The program offers bystander intervention-based training to bar and restaurant staff, free of charge, which Miles said local businesses were actively seeking. Employees identify warning signs of aggressive behaviors and learn ways to appropriately intervene through self-paced virtual training.
Miles said violent crimes impact business dynamics and employee morale, creating a hostile workplace which falters in its quality of service. When staff members are endangered, it is the employer’s responsibility to prioritize their safety through planned responses.
The same is true for SU’s Saferide drivers whose job it is to deliver students to safety during “risky” hours of the night.
“Saferide is usually in or around the area when a lot of these things happen if they’re during our hours of operation,” said Hall, who worked at the confidential ride service since October 2021.
On the road Thursday through Saturday from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., drivers retrieve SU students from the same bars, restaurants and house parties where violent crimes occurred.
Hall said Saferide has continued service to Brew River and Guido’s Burritos after both locations were “blacklisted” in the Fall 2021 semester. He commended Brew River and other local restaurants for working “hand-in-hand" with SU to keep students safe.
“It’s never an easy decision to cancel operations when something unexpected happens,” Hall said. “Especially if it’s at a party and there's a lot of students there that might need a ride.”
SU’s nightlife was not always dominated by violence.
Center for Student Involvement and Leadership Director Tricia Garvey Smith chuckled and sighed in recalling news of the floor collapsing at an over-capacity house party a few years ago – among top concerns at the time.
Many SU students have been victimized off-campus in the past two years, some even haunted by violent crimes infiltrating their homes.
The increase in gun-related incidents within miles of SU reflects climbing statistics inching closer to campus.
Salisbury’s rate of aggravated assault through March 2022 was 24.4% higher than the 10-year average, according to the Salisbury Police Department’s 10-year crime comparison.
To put it in perspective: the number of violent crimes per one thousand people in Salisbury is more than twice the national median, and chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime are one in 116 – more than two times Maryland’s average, according to NeighborhoodScout.
While most crimes occur off-campus, Garvey Smith said SU is not immune to the “traumatic” impacts – including faculty and staff like herself.
University procedures, solidified in response to nearing violence, prioritize student safety through trauma-informed approaches, but those who serve as resources can also experience second-hand effects.
“There is trauma from being in [those places] even if no one got physically hurt,” Garvey Smith said. She searched for the right words, remembering the unimaginable stories student witnesses shared with her. “It’s got to impact the mental state … students are not necessarily going to go to the Counseling Center, but they are going to reach out to the people they feel comfortable with.”
Garvey Smith emphasized the importance of secure communication and proactive planning in student safety.
Social media platforms allow users to connect with friends and acquaintances, often to communicate details about social gatherings or “going out” plans but can also initiate conflicts online and in-person.
The CSIL director said investigations with SPD into a gun-related incident at a student residence revealed unwelcomed guests found the gathering through Snapchat’s “heatmap” feature.
Social media also helped streamline the news to Student Affairs.
Some students, like freshman Charlie Perry, depend on SU emails for updates on the campus community.
Perry, who has been at SU for less than a month, said he does not follow enough SU peers to receive information through social media.
Aware of the risks lurking outside SU, the freshman stays informed of security resources, sticks to the main campus and travels with a group, to stay safe.
“I haven’t experienced too much firsthand,” Perry said. “But I did hear there was a shooting at Cookout, and I was there just an hour before.”
Garvey Smith said SU actively works to improve its alert system and procedures for keeping the campus community informed, and safety walks led twice yearly by Interim Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Lawanda Dockins-Mills consistently keep the campus secure.
She said students should always think proactively, stay aware of their surroundings and travel in pairs or groups to avoid potentially dangerous situations, and utilize resources like Saferide and SUPD’s escort service when they are the safest option.
“You can’t control what anyone else might do,” Garvey Smith said. “You can only mitigate the risk.”
By BEES BEESLEY
Editor in Chief
Photo courtesy of Benjamin Lausch