By Alexis Schulz
Unlocked doors in West Village B enabled two of the three reported sexual assault instances within two weeks on the Lawrenceville campus, prompting unease among students and action by administrators.
On Sept. 11 at 3:15 a.m. an unidentified white male entered an unlocked apartment in West Village B and touched a female visitor on the shoulder while she was sleeping in the common area, according to Anthony Campbell, dean of students. When the woman awoke, the suspect fled and no one was injured. That incident was not reported to the university until noon of the following day, and then a Rider Alert was issued.
“We sent out the timely warning, did an investigation, we looked at the videos, talked to students in the room and we didn’t have any good leads at that point, but were working with what we had and trying to find out more by talking with the visitor and the students,” said Campbell.
A second incidence of sexual assault was reported on Sept. 18 from Poyda Hall. Lawrence Township Police had a suspect in custody and an investigation commenced. The case was deemed unfounded, according to Lt. Joseph Amodio. No Rider Alert was sent out.
The third assault took place on Sept. 27 in West Village B at 4:50 a.m. According to Campbell, an unidentified white male entered an unlocked apartment and touched a female student’s breast while she was sleeping. When she awoke, the suspect fled.
“We know he came in by following someone through the door, and we have a very good video image of that person, which we shared with the police,” said Campbell. “There was no physical injury but definitely a lot of fear; it was psychologically disruptive.”
Campus and township authorities were on campus by 5:30 a.m. once the third incident was reported.
“When we got there, there were two detectives, patrol officers from Lawrence Township police (LPD) and Public Safety officers that were questioning,” said Campbell. “We started the process. Public Safety and I were with police until about midnight. We had a conference call with the chief of police in the afternoon and they said we could release a description of the person, and so we came out with the second timely warning. Later that night I met with the West Village people in the BLC.”
A separate incident occurred at the Delta Phi Epsilon (DPE) sorority house on Sept. 26 around 4 a.m. where an unidentified man was seen walking through the house. A female student called her male friends, who scared him off. The occurrence was not reported to Public Safety until 12 hours after it occurred, and according to Campbell, there was no need to send an alert to the community because there was no longer an imminent danger. It is not known if the same person was involved in all occurrences.
“There were definitely similarities from the first incident, but I cannot say for sure until we apprehend the person,” Campbell said.
A female student who lives in the DPE sorority house said everyone in the house is taking safety more seriously.
“It was a frightening experience,” she said. “We all are taking precautions and trying to stay as safe as possible.”
Campbell said the university is working closely law enforcement in the area.
“The safety of our students is absolutely our first priority,” he said. “What we have also done is added an additional Public Safety officer between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at West Village and also behind the sorority houses. The police have a person of interest, but we cannot go any further than that because the investigation is ongoing. We’re going to work with them until we get this case solved.”
A female West Village B resident who asked not to be identified said she feels uneasy living in her dorm and that the university should do more to let students know what is happening.
“The school is informing us of all that they are at liberty to, but definitely more information is out there that we have no idea of,” she said. “Students need to become aware of any new information moving forward. It is a difficult situation and obviously there is always more to be done. It will be interesting to see if there are going to be major changes as far as security, maybe even add more cameras, even if just temporarily. I definitely feel that I have to be more on my guard.”
“I would not say that I feel completely safe at the moment, and I know others feel the same way. There are measures that the university can take to help with that.”
Students at the SGA senate meeting held on Sept. 29 raised questions regarding the security of buildings on campus. The university is now taking the initiative to disable all handicapped-accessible doors in the rear of the West Village dorms.
“We want people to know if they see something, say something, even if it’s little, tell us,” said Campbell. “We’re asking people to lock their doors. We are doing a knock and lock program where we have Public Safety and RAs knocking on doors to make sure they are locked. If they’re not locked we’re going to lock them and put a note on the door. We want to remind people to be secure and lock your door.
“We want a good community, and when the door is open and everybody is around that is one thing, but when you’re sleeping, or you’re not there, it’s a good idea to lock your door. We’re not going to rest until we can ensure that our students are totally safe.”