The June 30 stabbing death of 21-year-old Leonard Raynod Smith-Matthews has raised some concerns about safety at Hyattsville’s University Town Center.
But UTC officials say their restaurant and residence hub, near the corner of Belcrest Road and East-West Highway, is a safe, welcoming place for locals and commuters alike.
“Notwithstanding what happened last week, we’re reevaluating everything on the security issue,” said M. Scott DeCain, a principal with Bald Eagle Partners, representing UTC.
DeCain met with Hyattsville Police Chief Douglas Holland after the stabbing to discuss opportunities to improve security at UTC.
“[That is] ultimately the most important issue that we can address,” he said. “If that analysis shows things can be done better, then we’ll do them better.”
Since the complex was built out starting in 2007—the entertainment hub boasts several restaurants, a movie theater and outdoor seating, often with live entertainment—one homicide was reported at the student towers in spring of 2008. The crime was believed not to be random and was solved shortly after. However, students from nearby Northwestern High School and other youth frequent the area and have been known to get rowdy, as noted by former Three Brothers restaurant manager David Cron.
Paul Urciolo, senior vice president of UTC, said there is a large police presence at the area, including officers from Prince George’s County and the city police. A private security company also has a guard posted overnight at the complex.
Three of the five commercial office buildings on location also have security guards, Urciolo said. While these guards cannot make arrests, they are directed to contact the Hyattsville police if they see suspicious activity.
Some of the office buildings at the town center hold federal offices, which also offer a measure of safety to the area, DeCain said.
There are several emergency call boxes at UTC, at street level and inside the parking garages. But some of them are not working and have signs posted on them alerting people to contact the HPD should they need assistance.
Urciolo said he was only recently alerted to the outages inside the parking garages and that some of them are due to problems with Verizon’s phone lines, which run under the garage.
A search for crimes at UTC on the website www.crimereports.com for the past six months shows only five were reported. The June 30 stabbing incident has not yet been posted to this site.
Despite the possibility that additional security might eventually be needed at UTC, DeCain isn’t sure that would have prevented the June 30 incident, in which multiple people were stabbed.
“What occurred here is a tragedy,” he said. “We haven’t yet concluded that security is an issue. There’s nothing we can point to that says our lapse of security caused this.”