WASHINGTON - Howard University is working to swiftly address safety concerns after several incidents of violence on and around campus.
The Parent and Student Town Hall took place at 1 p.m. Tuesday where students and staff could have their voices heard.
The recent reports — one of which occurred near a residence hall — left some members of the Howard community feeling uncomfortable.
According to a report from the Metropolitan Police Department, a victim was assaulted and stabbed by two suspects, who stole keys, an iPhone and a pair of Air Jordans from the victim near Howard Plaza Towers early Monday morning. The victim was taken to the hospital for further treatment.
Following the report, Howard University President Wayne Frederick cut his travel short and returned to campus Tuesday morning to address the issue, saying it’s a first priority.
"Maintaining the safety and well-being of Howard University students is our first priority," said Frederick in a letter. "We are investigating not only this incident but also our response to it. We apologize to our students who expressed that our public safety response did not meet their expectations of support and assistance."
Howard University officials addressed another incident that apparently occurred on Saturday, Aug. 12 in a letter to students, saying they were aware of video showing a massive brawl that was posted to social media and quickly went viral.
FOX 5 is told the fight lasted about two and half minutes and the administration insists that the aggressors were area teenagers, not Howard students.
"It has come to our attention that video footage from this past Saturday of physical altercations at a Georgia Avenue restaurant and outside of one of our student residence halls are now circulating on social media. Based on information gathered by the Howard University Department of Public Safety (HUDPS) and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), we believe that the perpetrators involved in the altercation are not Howard University students," the letter read.
There were reports that resources were minutes away when the fight broke out but it wasn't quickly stopped. It prompted questions about overall safety around campus.
Howard University’s Chief of Police Marcus Lyles goes on to say he’s launched an internal investigation looking into the communication between students and law enforcement and the aftermath of this brawl.
A lieutenant was removed from their position and a contractor has been released from their duty due to their response — or lack thereof — to the situation.
Security concerns were also raised back in July after a construction worker from El Salvador was shot and killed on Howard's campus during what police say was an attempted robbery.
University officials are reminding students to practice vigilance, avoid unfamiliar areas, especially at night and when possible, travel in groups. There’s also a "safe path" administrators want students to utilize while they are out on campus with security posted every couple hundred feet.
Read President Frederick's full letter to students and the Howard community below:
Dear Howard University Community,
Earlier today, members of my administration participated in a Parent and Student Town Hall to provide students, parents, faculty, and staff with information about public safety matters on and around our campus.
During the conversation, which can be reviewed here, we were able to give an overview of the disturbing incidents that occurred over the last 72 hours, how we responded, and what actions we will be taking moving forward to safeguard our campus community.
For those who were unable to attend, here is a summary.
Through our ongoing partnership with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), we have been made aware of the increasing incidents of misconduct by juveniles who are visiting various parts of the Washington, D.C. area, including in and around the Howard campus, to engage in unruly behavior and capture such behavior on video to share on social media. Last Saturday evening, up to 50 juveniles gathered at Banneker Park which is directly across the street from our campus. The youth were asked to disband after their behavior became of concern to local law enforcement. They then gathered at a restaurant on Georgia Avenue and Barry Place where a physical altercation occurred. We do know that no Howard University students were involved in the altercation, but we still do not know if students were in the restaurant or recording the incident nearby.
Several hours later, on Sunday morning, we learned that a large group of juveniles gathered outside of one of our residence halls, Howard Plaza Towers, and physically assaulted several Howard University students. Through our investigation of this incident and our response to it, we learned that our public safety response did not meet our standards of support and assistance. We have since taken action to hold those persons accountable and have removed one individual from campus and suspended another pending an internal investigation.
We are committed to immediately and proactively strengthening the security posture of our campus community. During the last academic year, we installed 1,000 cameras in and around our buildings and we will install 1,000 more over the coming months. Following a request for assurance from the Provost, Chief Lyles indicated that there would be increased staff and an increased security presence around campus. This will include establishing safe pathways where there will be more security personnel to better ensure the safety of students walking through campus and to residence halls, and we will station a Howard University public safety officer at Towers Plaza between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Our layered approach to public safety involves not just our ongoing partnership with MPD, but a commitment from our students to support our efforts to keep our campus free from dangerous behavior. We will be requiring students to show their university-issued photo ID to enter residence halls and other buildings open only for students, faculty, and staff. We also are reminding students that they should refrain from granting access to residence halls or other buildings to people who are not Howard University students. Additionally, all students are advised to get the POM – Peace of Mind – device available to all to use in the event they find themselves in an unsafe situation. The POM device will alert our public safety officers and MPD of an incident and the need for assistance.
Lastly, we will be reconstituting the Campus Safety Council to ensure that students have a voice and can continue to dialogue with University administrators and the Department of Public Safety about effective campus safety strategies. We recognize that recent events could impact the emotional well-being of our students, and we continue to provide emotional support services and resources for those who seek them. The Office of University Counseling is available by calling 202-806-6870 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. After 5 p.m., Crisis Line support is available by calling 202-345-6709. The safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff are our primary priority. We are committed to continuing dialogue on this critical issue and sharing timely and consistent information.
We thank you for your time and attention to this important topic and look forward to staying engaged with you throughout the new academic year.