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Greater safety precautions needed amongst student housing

CW: This article refers to instances of physical and sexual violence.

On Oct. 1, a 34-year-old identified as Michael Gallo was stabbed in the backyard of his home near Main Street West and Haddon Ave. South.

On Oct. 1, a 34-year-old identified as Michael Gallo was stabbed in the backyard of his home near Main Street West and Haddon Ave. South.

Gallo was found with stab wounds and taken to the hospital where he died of his injuries.

Kelly Botelho reported for CHCH that neighbours said Gallo had come out of the house that day, hugging his abdomen and asking for help. 

Due to its close proximity to McMaster University, the Westdale area is a popular area for student housing. 

Andrew Mrozowski, a fourth-year political science student and Managing Editor of the Silhouette, lives one street down from Haddon Avenue on Dalewood Avenue and has been in his student house since September.

Mrozowski recalls that when news broke about the stabbing that night, both him and his housemates were afraid. Not until the next morning after driving past Gallo’s house did he process the severity of the incident.

“Just because we live near Mac doesn’t mean that we still should not take the precautions to be safe,” Mrozowski said. He was reminded that although Westdale is heavily populated by students of McMaster, it is still a neighbourhood like any other.

“Just because we live near Mac doesn’t mean that we still should not take the precautions to be safe,” Mrozowski said.

In recent years, there have been several incidents within the student neighbourhoods around McMaster. In August and September 2018, there was a series of break-ins and attempted break-ins that targeted women. A 32-year-old man, Daniel Severin, was charged in February 2019 in connection with six incidents in Westdale during that time period.

Severin was charged with numerous crimes, including sexual assault, four counts of voyeurism, and six counts of criminal harassment. Severin was caught and charged five months after the first attack.

There were other incidents as well. A fight in September 2019 left two men with non-life-threatening stab wounds in the area of Whitney Avenue and Emerson Street. A couple was attacked on Bowman Street in October 2019, where a 19-year-old man had non-life-threatening stab wounds and a 19-year-old woman was sprayed with an unknown aerosol. It is unclear whether anyone was charged in connection to these incidents.

In thinking about why Westdale might lack safety measures, Mrozowski suggested that the lack of media coverage over student incidents may be a contributing factor.

In addition, to make Westdale a safer area for students, Mrozowski suggested that the university and the McMaster Students Union should be more involved. He would like to see students have authority other than the police to turn to for concerns within student housing.

“I hope [after hearing what happened] McMaster students really stop and consider, are they being safe . . . [I hope that] this horrible incident brings the community together to take further precautions to make sure it doesn’t happen to anybody else in anybody else’s family,” Mrozowski added.

“[I hope that] this horrible incident brings the community together to take further precautions to make sure it doesn’t happen to anybody else in anybody else’s family,” Mrozowski added.

Other students have also voiced concerns over the lack of police response to issues of violence in and around McMaster. A group of McMaster students and supporters called De Caire Off Campus continue to advocate for the removal of Head of Security Services Glenn De Caire and the removal of all special constables.

The group has cited failures of special constables to adequately respond to mental health crises and sexual violence.

In an update from the Hamilton Police Services, a man who was in the immediate area has now been deemed a suspect. The man was nearly hit by a vehicle while crossing the same intersection that night around five minutes before police were called to Gallo’s home.

The man is described as slender, about 5’9” and wearing a grey sweater with black sleeves along with a blue surgical mask.

Police are asking that people who were in the area at the time and saw the suspect to contact them. They are also asking homeowners in the Westdale area to check cameras and surveillance footage.

Anyone with information is also asked to call police at 905-546-3874 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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