Robbers, burglars hit students at All Saints University
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April 5, 2013

Robbers, burglars hit students at All Saints University

Some foreign students attending the All Saints University, located at Belair, are said to be living in fear, following a series of robberies and burglaries over the past two months.{{more}}

During February and March, eight students from Pakistan, Canada and Nigeria were reportedly victims of robberies or burglaries, some of which, they said, involved violence.

Although the crimes were reported to the police, the students and one of their professors say they feel frustrated at the apparent lack of progress in the cases, and are therefore calling on the authorities to take a more aggressive approach in relation to their situation.

Last week, SEARCHLIGHT spoke with five of the eight students involved. They asked us to conceal their identities for fear that they would be targeted again.

Despite being interviewed separately, the students all expressed the opinion that the country is not safe, not even for locals.

Two of the students were robbed at gunpoint in their homes and were relieved of electronic items such as Ipods, Ipads, cellular phones, and laptop computers.

The others had their gadgets “fished” out of their rooms.

“Imagine, the apartment has burglar bars and they found a way to fish out my cell phone,” said the Nigerian student.

“I don’t feel safe here any more,” added the student, who is in the final year of the medical programme.

A male student from Canada, who is also in his final year at the College of Science and Engineering, revealed that he was robbed of EC$8,000 worth of equipment, including the laptop he used for his studies.

Still in shock, young man said he “regrets” encouraging his roommate to travel from Dominica, where he was enrolled at another university, to come here.

“How do you think I feel now, man? I encouraged him to come here and now he is a victim of a crime that is yet to be solved and seems like it would not be solved.

“I lost my laptop which contained all, I mean all, my school studies and other documented information for exams, which is soon approaching.”

The young man said since the robbery, which took place in February, he reported the matter to the Calliaqua police, who visited his apartment once, and to date no update has been given on the crime.

“So, how am I to get back those lost data? Without that information, I’ve got nothing,” the upset student said.

A professor at the university who is also of foreign nationality said he too is fearful because of the present situation.

The professor, who has been residing here since 2009, said the situation has grown worse and “sterner action” needs to be taken by the police.

“This is a serious matter and I don’t think enough is being done to apprehend these criminals. These students are here and are heavily dependent on their families to support them.

“When incidents like these happen, it does not only affect them physically, but also mentally. Most of them have exams to prepare for and to be sidetracked by these unwanted criminal activities is not healthy…” the concerned professor said.

He disclosed that parents of the students who have been victims of crime have also raised concerns about the safety of their children.

“Not only those students’ parents are alarmed, he said, but many who’ve heard about the incidents.”

The majority of the students at All Saints University, including the ones affected, reside in rental apartments within the Belair area, and while they are of the opinion that the residents of the area have been nice to them, they are now left to wonder “whom to trust?”

“We cannot point fingers or blame anyone, but their actions are not good. This is not a good reflection on the country, said the Pakistani student, who was also in agreement with his professor that sterner actions should be taken by the law enforcement authorities.

“In my case, the police came like four hours after I reported the matter. They took statements, but since then we’ve had no update. This was like a month ago, nothing,” said the student whose laptop and cell phone had been taken.

He explained that his parents had to travel to St Vincent to bring him a new laptop, because it was too expensive to have it cleared, if shipped.

“It’s costly on us and our parents. We work nowhere and depend heavily on our parents.

“People see us and think because we are foreigners, we have money or all sorts of things. We have to struggle the same way to earn our education,” the irate student added, before he said he didn’t wish to say any more on the situation.

It was also reported that during one of the robberies, an attempt was made to sexually assault one of the female students.

“The reason she got away was because she told them she was menstruating,” her roommate disclosed.

“I have one more year remaining and I am not recommending that any of my friends come here, if this is the way things are going to remain,” the student said.

The most recent incident occurred on Monday, April 1, when a student’s apartment was broken into.

According to reports, the burglar(s) made off with a laptop and other undisclosed items.

Head of the Police Public Relations Department Assistant Superintendent of Police Jonathan Nichols told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that they are aware of the incidents.

“It’s an ongoing process with the police in trying to curb these incidents,” he said.

SEARCHLIGHT was also informed that the district commanding officer for that area, Superintendent Carlos Sampson and head of the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) Assistant Superintendant of Police E. Brown have devised a plan to try to capture the perpetrator(s).

“I know that they have had meetings with the management of the institution and have met with the students since the reports, as to how to better secure their properties and themselves.

“They have gone as far as even speaking with some of the landlords for the premises where the students are renting, advising them how to better secure their properties,” ASP Nichols said.

He also disclosed that strategic police patrols have been established and the investigating officers are working with intelligence in the area to unearth any information that could lead to the arrest and prosecution of the person or persons who perpetrate these offences.

The All Saints University, which opened its doors in St Vincent in September 2011, operates a collegiate system comprising of three colleges: College of Medicine, College of Arts and Science and College of Engineering.

In August 2011, just one month before the university opened, area representative Cecil McKie said the school would immediately need accommodation for 200 students, with plans to increase numbers to 1,000 within the first four years of operation. He also said there would be increased police presence in the area.

SEARCHLIGHT tried unsuccessfully on Wednesday to reach McKie for comment.

All Saints University leased the Belair site for 20 years, with plans to spend approximately $500,000 to renovate the building.

On December 15, 2007, the Kingstown Medical College of St George’s University closed its doors, after operating here for 26 years. Several reasons had been given for the medical school’s closure, including rising crime levels and this country’s relationship with Cuba and Venezuela. Government, however, said the US owned university had requested exclusivity on the island, a request government found impractical, considering the small student body that the school brought here.

There are presently three offshore medical schools operating here: Trinity Medical College at Ratho Mill, All Saints University at Belair and American University at New Montrose.