Crime in Palmetto raises concerns

Residents of the Palmetto Street apartments voiced concerns over their safety after a student was recently carjacked at gunpoint.

Christine Colon, a sophomore nursing student from Pensacola, expressed worry over the incident.

“It’s not the first time it’s happened,” the 19-year-old Palmetto Phase III resident said. “Everybody is going crazy. They should have somebody stationed throughout the night.” Colon said she felt overnight patrol was needed so residents could feel safe.

Brian Walton, a junior physics student from Atlanta, said he does not feel safe on campus.

On Oct. 27, his act of kindness toward a local hitchhiker resulted in a carjacking where he was forced to ride in the trunk of his own car.

“I was leaving Phase III, and a dude came up to me and asked me for a ride,” said Walton, 20. “As I’m giving him a ride, he pulls out a gun.”

After the attacker made Walton pull out his shoelaces, he tied his hands and feet together.

The car owner was forced into the trunk of his 2004 Saturn L300.

Once he freed his hands, he pulled on an inside latch, opened the trunk, jumped out and climbed over the fence separating the Palmetto apartment complex from Adams Street.

“I’m just paranoid right now,” Walton said. “I don’t feel too comfortable at night anymore.”

Walton, who lives off campus, was visiting a friend at the time of the incident. “It’s just that area in general. I don’t even want to go back,” he said of the Palmetto apartments.

Phyllis Walton, the victim’s mother, was concerned about the safety of her son and other students.

“I don’t want this to happen to someone else,” she said. “This time the outcome was safe, but I don’t know about the next time.”

In response to recent issues, Lt. Angela Kirkland, commander of criminal investigations at the Florida A&M University Police Department, said the police force has increased patrol of the Palmetto complex, but FAMU PD will not publish the specific times the officers patrol the apartments.

“We don’t want to become routine,” she said. “They patrol that area like they patrol other areas on campus.”

Lt. Norman Rollins echoed those sentiments and said the police department wants to emphasize to students that it is working to keep students safe.

“Our basic standard is extra patrol if there is a particular problem we’re trying to solve,” said Rollins, the commander of patrol for FAMU PD. “We’ve only had one carjacking. It’s more like an isolated incident. It is an ongoing investigation.”

LaNedra Carroll, spokeswoman for the university, said she felt there was no substantial increase in crime.

“It’s my understanding that there’s no specific pattern of behavior that’s unique to Palmetto,” Carroll said. “I know the police officials are doing all they can to keep the students safe not only at Palmetto, but also campus wide.”

Students would be safer if they operate at school as if they were at home, Assistant Chief of Police James Lockley said. He urged students to always lock their doors and stay in well-lit areas. “What criminals do is they look for vulnerable areas and vulnerable individuals that they can take advantage of,” Lockley said.

Calls seeking comment from Housing Director Isaac Brundage and Assistant Director of Housing Lamar Coleman were not returned at press time.

Brian Walton’s vehicle was recovered Nov. 5. Anyone with information concerning this case can call FAMU PD at (850) 599-3256.