Many students are questioning campus safety after receiving an e-mail from Campus Police on Feb. 14 that reported an incident of trespassing in Allen Residence Hall and another of lewdness on the sidewalk between Ely, Allen and Brewster Residence Halls (ABE) and the library construction area.
According to Detective Sergeant James Lopez, on Feb. 12 at approximately 11 p.m., a suspicious male followed a resident of ABE from her car, which was parked in Lot 4, to the front of the dormitories and exposed himself. The suspect is reported to have carried on a conversation with the student, saying he was “waiting for a friend” and was “considering attending (the College) to play basketball.”
The same night, on Feb. 13 at 3 a.m., a suspect entered an unlocked room in Allen Residence Hall, which a sleeping resident occupied. The e-mail, which confused some students, stated, “The suspect entered an unlocked residence hall room during the night and attempted to converse with an occupant of the room. The occupant was asleep and did not respond.”
“The resident was asleep when he walked in, they exchanged a couple of words, and (the resident) rolled over and went back to sleep,” Lopez said. According to Lopez, the resident was alone in her bedroom and reported the incident the following morning when she woke up.
Though the e-mail speculated that the two incidents were related, Lopez said, “At present we do not know if it was the same person involved in both incidents.”
In response to these warnings, many students question whether or not the suspect in both cases is the same person who was reported last semester to have harassed and followed female students around campus and other residence halls.
Jess Titian, sophomore law and justice major, recounted a night at the end of fall semester when a young male approached her as she was walking back from the Eickhoff Hall Parking Garage to her room in ABE at 3 a.m. “It was the scariest thing of my life,” Titian said.
While on his cellular phone, the man called out to her and tried to make conversation. She said he carried a Tiffany & Co. jewelry box with him. When she failed to respond and sped up, he called her snotty and said, “This is TCNJ, not Princeton.”
According to Titian, the man who approached her back in the fall fit the description of a “tall, white male with a thin build and brown hair” that Campus Police provided in the e-mail. He was older, approximately 25, with a very distinctive, prominent nose, she said.
Additionally, a student who prefers to remain anonymous said Campus Police recently contacted her and conducted a follow-up investigation about a similar report she filed last semester on a male suspect that fit the description provided. She said she is “positive” it is the same guy. Furthermore, she said she and her roommate provided a detailed description to Campus Police during their investigation. She questions why sketches were not made prior to the more recent incidents and why Campus Police have not been able to locate or catch the suspect. According to this student, the suspect was also spotted at a Dunkin Donuts in Ewing.
“We do feel there is a relationship between this and a couple incidents from last semester,” Lopez said. He also confirmed that in several of the reported incidents, the suspect seemed to target sorority members or mentioned sororities in his “opening line.”
Lopez denies allegations that Campus Police never notified the surrounding community, including the Ewing Police Department. “Other departments have been notified,” he said. “Especially in a case like this, there were many times I spoke to Ewing detectives and also passed the information on to the Lawrenceville (Police Department) to see if similar incidents were reported at Rider (University).”
Many ABE residents doubt their security following the reported incidents. Michelle Sukha and Kim Bucher, roommates in Brewster Residence Hall, said that in fear of the intruder, they recently removed their nametags from their door, which they are sure to lock at night. Ironically, they mentioned that one of the reasons they chose to live in ABE was because they thought it offered a quieter, safer setting.
“I don’t feel safe on campus at night anymore,” Bucher, sophomore nursing major, said.
Sukha also questioned the security of her dorm. Although after 12 a.m. the main door to ABE is supposed to lock and only permit entrance with the swipe of an identification card, she said she has returned late at night to find the door not completely closed and, therefore, unlocked.
According to Lopez, the incident in the dorm room occurred after the security desk went down. A member of the ResLife staff who preferred to remain anonymous said no procedures have been changed or altered in order to tighten security in ABE.
“The checking of keys and the signing in of visitors does provide a level of security for the resident halls,” Lopez said. “The College is constantly working to improve security measures on campus. We continue to work on updating building security with cameras and card access. This is a multi-year process.”
Lopez also reinforced the security warnings issued in the campuswide e-mail, advising all students to lock their rooms both at night and during the day, never travel around campus alone and never to allow “unfamiliar or suspicious individuals” into any buildings or residence halls. He also said that if students found themselves walking alone at night, they could contact Campus Police for an escort by calling x2167.
Titian said she is thinking about carrying Mace with her around campus.
“You never think being on this campus would feel unsafe,” she said. “You never think it could happen to you.”