Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
By Victoria Brobst, Staff Writer
On September 15, 2014 Campus Police received three reports of suspicious activity at Cedar Crest College.
The first report was recorded at 7:50 p.m. A student was concerned about a white Ford panel van with a Pennsylvania registration, driven by a white male wearing a hoodie, which drove through campus a few times. The van was seen again around 9:30 p.m., causing concern.
A silver mini-van was also reported to Campus Police at 10:15 p.m. in parking lot D due to being occupied for a while.
Chief of Campus Police, Mark Vitalos, explains what happened, “The white van was driven by the fiancé of a student. He was confused about the campus and drove around a few times, picked her up for something to eat, then returned at the 9:30, the time which coincided with the report. The other van report, the silver van, turned out to be a family member of a student who was picking up a personal project.”
“Campus police investigated the white van issue by actually talking to the eye-witnesses face-to-face and getting all the information necessary, such as partial vehicle registration, to release a follow-up. Normally at night we have 2 officers, one receiving information, the other responding…in this case searching for the vehicle,” said Vitalos.
Vitalos notes that campus police appreciates any reports of suspicious activity made. The advisory update released caused the student involved in the case of the silver van to actually come to the department and explain what had happened.
“We were mostly concerned because it was coincidental there were two van reports in one night. For the few nights the initial precaution was to add a full staff for the night shift. We even contacted the Allentown Police Department, and they assisted by driving through campus periodically during the day and night shifts,” Vitalos remarked.
The same night, at 10:08 p.m., a report was made about a man who was wearing a mask around Butz Hall. The origin of the call itself is unknown.
According to Vitalos, Campus Police was very close to Butz Hall at the time, attempted to respond, and found no such man.
“A couple weeks prior to the Butz Hall mask incident, a student filed a report about a man in a mask driving a vehicle. Campus Police is not sure if these events are related, but the masked driver just looked at a student,” disclosed Vitalos.
There have been no other reports of a masked man since. There has been a lot of student speculation as to what happened that night, but no eye-witness sources can be confirmed.
The reports raised concern amongst students. Junior Emily Orischak expressed she wasn’t very concerned about the van reports because they happen every once in a while. However, the report about the man in the mask sparked her concern, despite the little information provided.
“My parents were especially concerned. My dad offered to walk me to my classes! I think mostly paranoia was setting everyone off, since reports like this don’t happen often,” said Orischak. “I was a more uneasy walking campus at night and was more aware of little things happening around me.”
Sophomore Gina Gill happened to be walking across campus around 1am on the night of the initial reports. “I noticed police shining flashlights around Blaney Hall and more police activity than usual, but they didn’t stop to tell me what was going on.”
However, Gill felt safer and more prepared walking campus in this type of situation because she had taken the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes during the Spring 2014 semester.
“The classes helped build my confidence. We learned to use flight over fight in situations, and were taught to always look for the nearest escape route and think of your options. Now I feel more aware of what is going on around me and know what to do if something occurs. Yelling, especially things like ‘fire’ or ‘no,’ attract attention and will influence people to help you. For serious situations we did learn self-defense moves.”
Orischak had not taken RAD classes and thinks they would help her to be more prepared if something would happen. “I am interested, but they never seem to fit into my schedule. If the Criminal Justice Club on campus were to start, it would be helpful if they could offer sessions as a club thing or maybe mini classes.”
Campus Police like to make sure they can do everything possible to ensure the safety of students.
In the first advisory sent out on September 16th, safety tips such as keeping you keys in hand, traveling in well-lit areas, and walking with someone or in a group, were included. Students can prepare themselves by knowing how to get to places on campus and where the 14 emergency (blue light) phones are, saving the campus police phone in their phones, knowing to “Dial 0” on a campus phone, and using the escort service.
Campus Police encourages students to report anything suspicious. Reports are taken seriously so they can investigate in a timely manner and ensure the campus community.
For more in formation about campus police, visit: http://www.cedarcrest.edu/ca/security/index.shtm or call 610-437-4471.