For College Area residents it has become routine; to wake up on a weekend morning to text messages from neighbors listing the violent crimes that happened around SDSU the night before.
Since the beginning of October, those text messages included, two reported rapes, three sex crimes, two shootings, 12 assaults, five home burglaries, five reports of drunk in public, and 14 car thefts, all within a mile of San Diego State University.
The residents are not alone. Violent crime is up in San Diego. But College Area residents say it is different in their neighborhood. On the weekends it is not unusual to be roused from sleep by the sound of gunfire, loud fights, or drunken youth vandalizing homes and cars on residential streets. It is now common for many of the same residents to learn about rapes occurring steps from their homes on any given weekend.
The numbers only bolsters their arguments.
Crime in the College Area: 2021 saw a major spike in crimes committed
According to city records obtained by CBS 8, the College Area saw the highest number of crimes committed in 2021 compared to the last six-plus years.
Residents tell CBS 8, that the massive parties that lure young people from across the city have become hotbeds for rape, sex assaults, and violence.
Neighbors ramped up their demands after word broke about a 17-year-old girl who reported that she was allegedly raped by a group of San Diego State Football players during a raucous party in 2021 on Dorothy Drive.
The university as well as San Diego Police continue to hear the fallout from the alleged rape.
Residents say more evidence can be seen in the 2021 shooting of a 16-year-old boy during a massive party on Baja Drive in August.
In response to the rising crime wave near the college, residents have sounded the alarm, and are urging elected officials to act in order to prevent other young people from experiencing the same fate.
Those alarms, they say, have fallen on deaf ears.
"This is becoming a crisis in our community," said longtime College Area resident, Susan Hopps-Tatum. "It's not safe. It's not safe for students. It's not safe for community members. We have begged and pleaded for help, for more patrols. And the response that we got from the city; it's not necessary."
That violence, says neighbors, is demonstrated through videos that the neighborhood shares, such as the video below, from a child's playroom that picks up multiple rounds of gunshots ringing out from the street.
"In regard to the 16-year-old that was shot here from Chula Vista, why are teenagers all the way over here at college parties, because there's no supervision, no police presence."
Added Hopps-Tatum, "We see people being carried away all the time, and violent crime, sexual assaults, robberies have gone up in our community, at least tenfold in the last two years. It's really, really disturbing as a member of a community, but also as a parent."
But it wasn't always this way, residents tell CBS 8.
Up until 2018, San Diego Police had the C-Squad, a special patrol dedicated to San Diego State and nearby areas. The unit, comprised of three-to-four officers, had success keeping parties at bay and more importantly the young people at the parties out of trouble.
According to an internal email obtained by CBS 8, the former police captain in charge of the Eastern Division, which includes the College Area, supported bringing back the C-Squad to help quell the uptick in violence.
"We put a C- Squad in place to see how it would affect the parties in the College area. In summary, it had a very positive effect..." wrote SDPD Captain Julie Epperson in a February 2022 email. "Unfortunately, I was not able to continue the C-Squad because, in effect, we were 'Robbing Peter to pay Paul.'
Epperson said staffing shortages placed an undue burden on officers in the Eastern Division to try and keep up with enforcement at SDSU while still working other areas.
"Consequently, our response time for calls division-wide at Eastern was greatly diminished," said Epperson before adding, "I do believe a C-Squad would have a great benefit to the College area, much like bringing in a summer beach team to the Pacific Beach area greatly reduces the issues with the drinking and the parties there, and is utilized successfully year after year for them. However, our staffing does not support the C-squad at this time. We are at or below minimum staffing almost every day."
Despite the praise for the program, residents say councilmember, Sean Elo-Rivera, San Diego Police, and Mayor Todd Gloria refuse to focus their resources to re-establish the special unit.
"They feel like they could handle the increase in crime with increased code compliance," said resident Hopps-Tatum. "I remember when we heard that we all looked at each other, like what in the world are they talking about? Code compliance is not going to come out if someone has a gun. That's not who you call if things are out of control, and people are fighting in the street. You don't call code compliance you call San Diego PD."
The City's and SDSU's Response:
Council President Sean Elo-Rivera tells CBS 8 that he is aware of the spike in crime in the College Area and is working with San Diego Police to address it.
"Prior to some of the more serious crimes that were committed we worked with the community, San Diego State and San Diego Police Department to make sure there was better coordination," said Elo-Rivera. "I think that’s had some positive effects but obviously, the incidents still going on remain very concerning to me."
The council president attributes the size of the parties and the accompanying violence to the fact that many non-students who live in other areas come to the parties after finding out about them on social media.
Elo-Rivera says he is working on holding landlords of party houses accountable as a way to cut down on the disturbances and the violence.
"We’ve done more to hold the bad actors accountable who own some of these homes, who’ve known for years about the parties and go well beyond what any reasonable neighbor would expect or appreciate in their own neighborhood," said Elo-Rivera.
As for reinstating the SDPD C-Squad, the council president said it wasn't so easy.
"We’ve definitely heard from residents a number of times that they want the C Squad re-instituted. This is an operational decision of SDPD Chief Nisleit," said Elo-Rivera. "As council members, we don’t direct the police department, we don’t tell them how to do their jobs on a day-to-day basis like that. That’s the chief's call."
While the money is there to add the unit or hire more officers, Elo-Rivera says current staffing shortages inside the police department are preventing them from doing so.
"It’s not a lack of budgeting," said the council president. "We’ve improved salaries, try to improve working conditions for the police department, and approved signing bonuses and recruitment bonuses for folks. We want our positions filled."
However, residents are not convinced.
"I think that's a cop-out, pun intended," said resident Hopps-Tatum. "There's a lot more he could do. He has come to some community meetings but has really not met with community members. There is more than San Diego State can do as well, and he has direct power as our council person to make those kinds of meetings happen, and ensure that we're at least doing everything we can do. So far, we've seen very little response from him."
As for San Diego State's Police Department, a spokesperson for the university said that while campus police focus largely on the campus itself, it is working with SDPD to try and support their efforts.
"The San Diego State University Police Department (UPD) is responsible for responding to incidents that take place at any university-owned and controlled properties at the San Diego campus. SDPD has primary jurisdiction of areas surrounding the university, including city-owned sidewalks and alleyways," said the spokesperson. "Although SDPD has primary policing authority of areas near campus, UPD continues to work with SDPD regarding community support details in the off-campus and surrounding area, including the College Area neighborhood."
In regard to San Diego Police, a spokesperson for the department tells CBS 8, "The San Diego Police Department is committed to keeping our communities safe. We want to reassure our community that we are not only aware of their concerns, but we are working to find solutions. We are continually reassessing operations and how to deploy officers. Our community can expect to see ongoing collaboration with San Diego State University, University PD, and community leaders to keep our neighborhoods safe."
Meanwhile, College Area resident Hopps-Tatum says if something is not done then she fears the worst.
"A lot of people have left because they have thrown their hands up. The university isn't taking ownership or responsibility. San Diego PD is overwhelmed. We need some people in powerful positions. We need Sean Elo-Rivera, and Adela de la Torre at SDSU to come together with the community. It shouldn't just be San Diego State, it shouldn't just be San Diego police."