Barely a week after the group made national news for advocating for racial segregation at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Towson University's White Student Union is again drawing attention for plans to conduct nighttime patrols to watch for crime.
Matthew Heimbach, a 21-year-old senior and founder of the group, said his group plans to go out a few nights a week — the men armed with only Maglite flashlights, the women with pepper spray — and will attempt to make a citizen's arrest if they witness a "violent felony." Mostly though, he said, they will inform police of crimes.
The university does not officially recognize Heimbach's group, saying in a statement that it has not met certain requirements to become a sanctioned organization.
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Towson University, 8000 York Road, Towson, MD 21252, USA
"The safety of our community is of paramount importance," a Towson spokeswoman said in a statement. "As one of the safest campuses in the University System of Maryland, we are confident in the work of the Towson University Police force. We maintain our vigilance to keep Towson safe and have not sanctioned patrols by this or any other student group."
Recently, the group caused a stir at the conference when member Scott Terry said the Republican Party would be better as "Booker T. Washington Republicans" — "united like the hand, but separate like the fingers."
A former, similar group started by Heimbach, called Youth for Western Civilization, was disbanded after its required faculty sponsor resigned and after the group chalked "White Pride" messages around campus.
Heimbach said patrols are being formed in response to what he claims is a spike in black-on-white crime.
"What you see here is a very large problem of black-male-against-white-female crime," he said.
But, he says, the group will help any victims of crime they come across who are not white.
"The goal is not to go out and intimidate, the goal is not to go out and prove something, the goal is just to be an extra set of eyes and ears for the [Towson] community at large," Heimbach said.
The national civil rights group Southern Poverty Law Center recently put his organization on its Hate Map, which tracks what the center deems extremist groups.
The university said most students, in response to the group, have decided to not encourage the members by giving them attention, and have been more vocal in their expressions of tolerance.
"The exchange of opinions and debate is a core principle of higher education and is supported by Towson's commitment to the First Amendment," Towson officials said in a statement. "Unfortunately, this freedom on occasion allows for ideas that are offensive and hurtful to many and runs against the grain of the values of Towson University."