It is only one month into a new semester, but three crimes have already attracted campus-wide attention and concern.
Wedged between logs of students’ drug possession and larceny arrests is the incident that occurred in Deyo Hall, the trespassing in Coykendall Science Building and the attempted sexual assault on Plattekill Avenue. With three crimes in less than a months’ time, some students are beginning to question their safety.
“I normally am very paranoid and cautious, but now I feel I have to make an extra effort not to walk around alone at night on or off campus,” Alexandria Jardine, a third-year psychology major, said.
The campus community was notified via email from President Donald Christian that on Feb. 19 an attempted sexual assault occurred on a female student walking back to campus. She reported the incident to police immediately. In another campus-wide email on Feb. 24, New Paltz Chief of Police David Dugatkin announced they had arrested a suspect the night before.
In a memo to faculty, Eugene Heath, acting chair of the Communication and Media department recalls an arrest that occurred the morning of Feb. 11. An unknown male was found sleeping in the first floor CSB lounge by a faculty member and was arrested by university police for trespassing. University police are looking into new ways to reinforce CSB’s preexisting security measures.
According to the Annual Security Report put out by university police there have been seven arrests for weapon possession between 2008 and 2010. Two in 2008, four in 2009 and only one in 2010. The report for 2011 is pending release.
Some students are concerned with the lack of campus alert messages after the first incident on Feb. 7.
“I didn’t hear about that until nighttime, most of my friends heard it around the same time. I think we should have known right away.” said Jardine about the Deyo Hall event.
The university police remain confident that since there was no urgent danger, there was no pressing need to inform the community as soon as it took place.
Dugatkin disclosed in an interview why a campus alert was not dispensed at the time of the incident in Deyo Hall. Doughty’s suitemate called university police minutes after midnight when Doughty forced his roommate and another female student into his room with a two and a half foot Japanese martial arts sword. When four university police arrived, Doughty was in the common area but immediately retreated back to his room.
The officers demanded that Doughty surrender. Doughty’s roommate disarmed him and exited the room with the weapon.
“At that point Mr. Doughty came out of the room, the police officers gave him orders to be placed under arrest. He would not comply and began to fight with the officers. It took four officers to subdue him and finally get him into custody.” said Dugatkin.
Fourth-year student Charlene Martoni lives on the same floor as Doughty and recalls walking out of her suite just as the officers escorted Doughty into the elevator.
“He was confused and saying to the officers ‘Why are you doing this to me? I love you,’” said Martoni.
As Jardine stated, many students on and off campus have voiced concern over the lack of alert sent out. According to Dugatkin, since the incident lasted under 10 minutes it was not an ongoing threat the campus community needed to worry about.
Dugatkin continued, “we needed to make sure we had all the facts at hand and we knew there was nothing else going on in order to give the students and faculty the proper information. And that took several hours to do. Had we felt there was any type of ongoing threat we immediately would have broadcast an alert but that was never an issue we had to worry about.”
Doughty missed his first court appearance on Feb. 8, but is expected back in Town of New Paltz court on March 14 at 6 p.m.
Campus alerts are issued through mobile messaging or by email. The last alert messages received by students were for class cancellations on Feb. 29, and before that Hurricane Irene.
According to the SUNY New Paltz website, New Paltz is partnered with Rave Wireless to deliver mobile alert messages. Students and faculty voluntarily choose to partake in receiving messages of cancellations due to inclement weather or other on-campus emergency situations. Students and faculty can also call a hotline, visit the New Paltz website or check their email to receive these kinds of alerts. There is also an outdoor public announcement system that can be used through campus to broadcast messages.
The university police urge that all students report anything suspicious to them or other authoritative faculty. The Blue Light system should also be used to call police in the event of an emergency.
Chief Dugatkin’s Safety Advice:
•Always walk with friends, especially at night or poorly lit areas.
•Always have a charged cell phone on you at all times.
•Be aware, do not assume you’re safe in a small quiet village.
•Take advantage of the escort service that runs every night.
•Take a RAD class, sign up early because the classes fill quickly.
•Report anything or anyone suspicious to police