As Marist senior Matthew Vance walked towards the corner of Orchard Place and Washington Street on his way to Lola’s Café, he quickly sensed that something was out of the ordinary. What he saw was police vehicles, a crime scene unit and yellow caution tape, which cornered off an area of the sidewalk. This quickly revealed another instance of violence in the city of Poughkeepsie.
Vance, along with the rest of the city and Marist community, soon learned that this was indeed another shooting, this one fatal. Per the Poughkeepsie Journal, city resident Michael McNair, 32, was shot and killed on September 6 around 3:00 a.m. Perhaps the most alarming part for Marist students and their families was the location of the crime. The crime scene was only doors away from Lola’s, a popular lunch spot among students. A barber shop and one of the entrances to the Walkway Over the Hudson are also nearby. Vance and his housemate Jeff Matthews, who are Orchard Place residents, voiced their concern regarding the number of Marist students that live off-campus in that community.
“This isn’t something you want to see around the corner from your house. We take every precaution to stay safe and make sure we keep ourselves out of dangerous situations, but when something like this happens so nearby you can’t help but be concerned,” said Vance. “We can be smart and make all the right decisions, but once in a while you worry that you will find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Matthews voiced many of the same concerns as Vance, but also cited past problems in the community as red flags to be aware of. He said, “Unfortunately, this is not overly shocking because it is not the first occurrence. I read that this is the seventh homicide in Poughkeepsie this year. So, we know that it is a problem. We are sure to keep our doors locked and stay out of areas that are known to be dangerous.”
Vance and Matthews, as seniors, are experienced in navigating the city, but not all students have the same awareness. Particularly for underclassmen, it is extremely important to understand where you are and follow certain guidelines to stay safe.
Sergeant Dave Gioia of the Poughkeepsie Police Department acknowledged that many Marist students are not from the Poughkeepsie area and are not familiar with the places they are visiting and the people they are encountering. He stressed that following basic safety procedures is key for both on-campus and off-campus residents. He said, “Always be sure not to travel alone. It is important to always have someone with you. When you’re home, keep your doors locked at all times. It is also extremely important to know who is coming in and out of your house. As friends start to invite friends who start to invite friends, keep track of who is coming in and out.”
As enrollment at Marist continues to increase, and the possibility of a housing crisis becomes imminent, it is important for those living off-campus in the Poughkeepsie community to be smart. Graduating from a freshman dorm room to a house of one’s own is something that may start to happen more frequently, and understanding how to do this safely is imperative.