Concerning the Death of Undergraduate Student Linda Trinh
January 26, 2005
The Johns Hopkins community has suffered an unspeakable loss. An undergraduate student, Linda Trinh, was found dead last weekend in her suite in the Charles Apartments, a privately owned building across Charles Street from the Homewood campus.
Late Monday, we were informed that Linda's death had been determined to be a homicide. Since then, police have said that evidence indicates that this was not an "absolute random" act of violence and that it is possible she may have known the person who killed her.
We are satisfied that Baltimore police, from the most senior level to the investigating detectives, are committed to an aggressive investigation and to solving this terrible crime. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley has called to express his deep personal concern and to offer any assistance he can provide.
We have done much in the past year to strengthen student safety on and near the Homewood campus. Once we have an understanding of what occurred in this case, that understanding may well suggest new steps we must take, and we will take them.
Both the university and Baltimore police have stepped up their presence in the area around the Charles Apartments. The university has stationed an officer at the building itself and increased mobile patrols there and in the immediate vicinity. The management of the Charles Apartments, at our recommendation, has hired security to patrol inside the building during evening and overnight hours. They will do the same at the Blackstone Apartments, a nearby building which they also operate and where many students live.
In the meantime, I directed today that we accelerate steps to significantly improve our security systems on campus and in the surrounding area, including new surveillance capabilities. In part because of the very thoughtful and helpful comments I have received from parents this week, I also directed today that we add parent and student representatives to our standing working group on Homewood campus security. Their job will be to monitor our progress and provide us with new ideas and constructive criticism. Parent and student members will report back to their constituencies on our progress.
Linda Trinh has been taken from us less than a year after the university experienced another tragic loss, the killing of junior Christopher Elser in a stabbing at an off-campus fraternity house. The circumstances appear to be quite different — in that case, police believe the assailant was an intruder in the house and not someone known to Chris — but these deaths leave all of us at Johns Hopkins as outraged as we are grief-stricken.
The safety initiatives we implemented after Chris's death, in addition to assistance we sought and received from Baltimore police, have helped to reduce crime. On university-controlled property, crime was down significantly in 2004. In the surrounding area, crimes against persons were down, though property crime was up.
It is especially painful that we have taken those steps and that, nevertheless, this new tragedy has occurred. Statistics are of little consolation after the loss of two vibrant, intelligent, energetic young people who were of such importance to our university community.
I want to review for you some of the steps we took last spring.
We reinforced patrols in Charles Village and added them in the University Parkway corridor.
We added to our campus and off-campus network of emergency telephones and are working expeditiously now to upgrade the system's technology.
We improved our security van service, providing faster response time to student callers, especially on the busiest weekend nights, and reducing incentives for students to walk to their destinations.
In cooperation with the city, the community and the local electric utility, we have identified and are working to mitigate areas of insufficient lighting in off-campus areas where many of our students live.
We have enhanced the safety education we do for students, both talks to various groups of students and distribution of safety tips both to those in university housing and those living off-campus.
We have reminded students that we provide security assessments in off-campus dwellings and provide recommendations to them and their landlords for improvements.
We now print emergency contact information on all newly issued ID cards. We have given students wallet-sized cards with both emergency numbers and other important security-related phone numbers.
In pursuit of our goal, endorsed by many parents, to provide secure university-owned housing to any undergraduate student who wants it, we broke ground this fall on the Charles Commons project, which will provide nearly 600 new beds by the fall of 2006.
We recognize and accept our role in protecting the safety and security of our students. Nothing could be more important to us. And, no matter what improvements we have made, we know fully that we can and must do more. You also can help. Please encourage your son or daughter to be vigilant about protecting himself or herself; no one is in a better position than students themselves to take actions that will keep them safe. You can find helpful information on the Security Department Web site at www.jhu.edu/security/.
Please also encourage your student to take advantage of the many resources that are available if they need them. I encourage any student who wishes to do so to reach out to Residence Life staff, our peer counselors, our campus ministers and, of course, the Counseling Center. For emergencies outside regular hours, the center's on-duty counselor can be reached through Security at 410-516-7777.
We will be in touch again soon. Meanwhile, you will find updated information available on a link from the university's home page at www.jhu.edu.
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