Tigerland, a little over on a mile away from the LSU campus, is one of the most popular places to go within the LSU community, with four bars clustered together where students can spend time with their friends, drinking and doing karaoke night. However, this party scene is one of the most crime ridden areas in Baton Rouge.
Traveling to Tigerland in the afternoon, one can find large chains on some businesses’ doors, crumpled chip bags on the cracked cement and, at most, one person walking along the side of the street.
Numerous students declined to speak on the controversial topic because they fear removal from their organizations or did not want to suggest "Tigerland is bad." In light of the numerous deadly and tragic events occurring in Tigerland, patrons still find the area inviting.
In 2012, 22-year-old Gunnar Williamson was beaten to death near Tigerland. He was found on March 8 on the 1300 block of Bob Pettit Boulevard. Reports stated that Williamson was attacked, beaten and robbed after walking to get a soft drink at a store near his apartment. By March 12, Williamson’s autopsy said that the cause of death was inconclusive, according to Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) Sgt. Don Kelly.
Jerome Lamar Verret was arrested by BRPD on attempted first-degree murder charges, shooting two men, a 20-year-old and a 23-year-old, behind Reggie's bar on September 14, 2014. Verret turned himself in.
On Jan. 18, 2014, 50 people were caught in the midst of a brawl outside of Tigerland, leaving several injured. BRPD. Cpl. L’Jean McKneely was unable to confirm whether or not University students were involved or how many people were arrested.
By April 26, 2015, two dead bodies, a male and a female, were discovered at the bottom of a pool near Tigerland just after 1 a.m. by BRPD at 1315 Bob Pettit Blvd.
Two intoxicated men, Christopher Hicks and Christopher Summers, pointed a loaded gun at Reggie's bar patrons and staff members and threatening to fire Aug. 31, 2015. They were later arrested.
On Nov. 12, 2015, BRPD increased its presence in the Tigerland on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights starting from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m.
According to BRPD Sgt. Don Copolla, there is always a police presence in Tigerland. Coppola has worked with BRPD for almost 21 years.
“It’s really situational days,” Copolla said. “There have been times of a presence in that area and not always that area but areas throughout the city, situationally we may have an increase.”
Jan. 5, 2016, Senior tight end Dillon Gordon acquired stabs on his chest, leg and abdomen in a brawl outside of Reggie's bar, according to The Advocate. Then football coach Les Miles prohibited LSU players from going to bars and nightclubs.
A popular, family-run Palestinian shop was robbed of roughly $5,000 at gunpoint the morning of Jan. 4, 2016. Akasha Market owner, Rania Ahmed, leased the business to take an indefinite leave.
The current lessee of Akasha Marked declined to speak to The Reveille.
On Jan. 30, 2018, a man was stabbed in the 4500 block of Y.A Tittle around 5:45 p.m. LSU Media Relations Director Ernie Ballard said no students were involved.
At around 1 a.m. Sunday morning, Sept. 23, 2018, a man died after being struck by a vehicle, being pronounced dead Sept. 26, according to a Louisiana State Police press release. The driver was not impaired. Blake Cordes was not a student at the University; he was a student at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Despite these tragic events, Tigerland obtained a new sign on Feb. 4, 2019.
A 1989 LSU New Orleans Medical School graduate, who lived in the Tigerland area, wanted to remain anonymous and wanted to be known as "someone who is well in-tune with the area.” He feels it’s not the students who would be the biggest concern in Tigerland.
“Tigerland looks like a ghetto. It looks like something worse than a third world country,” the source said. He “knows” how much the bars and "knows" that the bars could afford to clean up the entire Tigerland area.
The source would like for the “millions of dollars obtained by the school” to use it to “bulldoze” Tigerland “to the ground and build it up right.”
Feb. 19, 2019, a woman leaving Tigerland was attacked by her assumed rideshare. The man inappropriately touched her and attacked her. She fought him off until jumping out of the moving vehicle near the Shell station on Nicholson Drive and East Boyd Drive.
After this year's death of University student Sarah James on July 16, there has been an increased concern with the lack of street lighting and crosswalks. Due to the influxing concern over this, 7,000 people signed a petition to add street lights on Nicholson Drive and East Boyd Drive.
On Oct. 16, 2019, Stan Riley, 37, and Amanda Authement, 34, were shot and killed inside the Tigerland Avenue apartment complex. Three people were arrested in connection to the crime. The murder is allegedly linked to a planned drug deal and armed robbery.
“Unfortunately people would hear Tigerland and automatically, a lot of times, relate LSU students to the Tigerland area because a vast majority is the LSU area,” Coppola said.
Derek Jones, 41, was shot dead in his Tigerland apartment complex around 2 a.m., early Wednesday morning, Nov. 6, becoming the third person to be killed in the area within the last three weeks.
BRPD and the building manager of the complex have received numerous complaints of crime within the area.
“Tigerland needs to be bulldozed. LSU can pay Coach O $6 million per year and build a big sports complex for the football players,” the source said. “I don’t have anything against the sports team, making money, whatever, with the sports, but the school doesn’t have any emergency blue-light systems like other Universities. It’s all focused on the sports and how much money they gonna make from Tiger Stadium.”
According to Report Exec, blue-light systems cost about $7,500 per phone, with maintenance costs at $200 each per year. Most college campuses have removed the systems, opting for mobile safety apps because the phone systems are “outdated.” Because Tigerland is off campus, it cannot obtain a blue-light system.
LSUPD recommends downloading the LSU Shield app and suggests students and their family members to sign up for its Emergency Text Messaging System. People can also download the LSU Mobile app to receive emergency messages.
The source does not think the LSU Shield app, enforced by LSUPD, is helpful, calling it a “waste of time.”
“First off the guy is going to jump behind the tree with a gun or a knife, asking for [their victim’s] telephone,” the source said. "Don’t go [to Tigerland]. Seriously. No joke. It’s a very dangerous place. Drugs are rampant in the elements over there.”
The source believes the parents don’t understand the Tigerland area, saying the people who live around there "fester” on the visiting students. He stated that criminals are looking for “girls who are passed out at the gas stations at the corner on the ground.” He claimed that women are prone to be robbed of their purses and phones when put into these situations. He believes that crime is rooted within Tigerland, stating if the area was cleaned up and completely reconstructed, it would flourish beautifully and become a safer area.
The source “absolutely” believes the increase of crime is due to the increased freshman classes at the University.
“The majority of [Tigerland] does consist of LSU students, in and around that area,” Coppola said. He does not think that the larger number of classes at LSU is a target at Tigerland.
The source understands that college students want to go out and have fun at the local bars, but he believes the “zero-level of police protection in that area and the fact that it’s not a controlled environment” is not worth it.
“[BRPD] turns their backs on...potential, fatal situations,” the source said. “It should be a drop-off pick-up only place; not where you go drive in there and get drunk for four hours then drive home right in front of a police officer. ”
Nearly 32% of the total deaths from drunk driving in the U.S comes from Louisiana, according to Bart Bernard Injury Lawyers. Although the rate of deaths per 100,000 is 3.3 nationally, it is 5.2 in Louisiana.
The source doesn’t feel Tigerland reaches the standard of other college areas in the country. He believes college students should go to nice places, safe with clean streets, adequate parking, good lightning, taxis, rideshare and drive-thru lines, rather than outdated buildings that “look like they came out of a torn-up part of Afghanistan.”
A chemical engineering sophomore, currently working at one of the bar establishments, believes Tigerland doesn’t stand out in terms of violence within the area, calling it “pretty normal.” The sophomore wanted to remain anonymous in fear he may lose his job.
“Everybody’s just trying to have a good time,” the sophomore said. “Even the freshmen, they don’t like to do much but only for the freshmen that actually come out.”
“Older 20-year-olds don’t go to Tigerland. They hate the place,” the source said. “The young ones are the ones over there are the ones drinking and driving those heavy pieces of metal of machinery under the influence.”
Intoxicated women attempting to purchase refreshments at one of the stores along Tigerland are one of the easiest targets for perpetrators, according to the source.
“People are like ‘I want to go party over there, but I’m not afraid of the criminal element,’ but then something happens, hits the newspaper then whatever,” the source said.
The sophomore employee has never felt unsafe while working in the Tigerland area. He claims he knew what he signed up for, typically having to break up fights every now and then.
“Some people leave [after fights], but that happens everywhere,” the sophomore said, when asked whether or not the fighting has affected business. “Nobody wants to be around that when that happens.”
The sophomore was complacent, saying one of the frequent crime areas, Alvin Dark Avenue, is usually highly patrolled by BRPD.
“On game-days, we have BRPD come out and stuff. There’s always a pretty good presence of [BRPD] out there," the sophomore said.
The source claimed there are prevalent gangs, "drug lords," gang initiations and shootings within the area. One of his concerns consisted of the “undesirables” who walk up to the cars late at night into the early mornings. The source assumes it’s due to drug activities.
Illicit drug use in America has been increasing, according to the National Institute on Drug Use’s survey in 2013. In 2013, those 12 and older, about 2.6 million participants being about 9.4% of the population, experienced illicit drug use within the past month. This data increased from 2002’s 8.3%. It is hypothesized that the rise is due to the popularity of marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug.
Copolla did not have the BRPD statistics to support whether or not drugs are the main cause as to why crime is more prevalent in the area.
According to the Obama White House archives, “In the most recent Survey from [2009-2010], 7.52 percent of Louisiana residents reported using illicit drugs in the past month. The national average was 8.82 percent. Additionally, 4.14 percent of Louisiana residents reported using an illicit drug other than marijuana in the past month (the national average was 3.6 percent).”
Microbiology junior Katelynn David has never been to Tigerland because all she has ever heard about the area is that there is nothing but crime.
“I don’t want to involve myself in an area like that, where there’s drinking. Things happen," David said. "And then there’s underage drinking.”
David claims that Reggie’s and Fred’s has gotten shut down several times for underage drinking, and she is surprised that they are still in business.
The Reveille has reached out to Reggie’s for comment, but they never responded, and Fred’s declined to comment.
“When you go [to Tigerland], you expect to have a good time and drink, and drinking tends to change your perception of things, so you let your guard down,” David said. “You can easily take advantage of a drunk person, and that’s just a fact.”
David feels that those who have no relation to the University are aware that college students tend to have some money and value, and they are the ones going into the area to cause crime.
“Most of the crime on campus, in general, are people who are coming in. I just feel like we’re really targeted, especially when we’re drunk,” David said.
David recommends that students always stay with a group of friends, making sure someone in the group is aware of who is where, but also take care of yourself.
“Who is going to take care of me besides me?” David said.
David also feels that students are aware of the crime, but don’t worry too much about it to begin with.
The source highly recommends bulldozing the entire Tigerland area, rebuilding the area from the ground up.
“You got a cancer; you gotta cut it out, and that’s basically the Tigerland type of apparition is,” the source said.
“My suggestion would just be, no matter where you are, you know, stay vigilant,” Copolla said. "Don’t pose as a potential victim. Put the phones down; walk as if you have a purpose.”
The sophomore advises that “if you’re by yourself, keep your head on the swivel.”
“When you hear bad things about certain places, you tend to think like ‘oh, you know,’ so you want to form your own opinions and go there, but you see how you’ll perceive it to really see it rather than basing it off of other people’s experiences,” David said. “It really is bad because it’s all a part of trial and error.”