By Brittany Rosso
On Tuesday, April 10, a female student was approached by a maroon SUV while walking into her on-campus apartment. As she was walking to the door, she had noticed the vehicle honking at her and the driver of the vehicle backing up to speak with her, while attempting to yell something to her. After walking toward the vehicle, the female quickly realized that the man in the SUV was not someone she knew, and she immediately went inside the apartment buildings.
After she had made it into her apartment safely, he drove off.
The suspect was described as an African American male that appeared to be in his mid-fifties, who had claimed to be looking for lost artwork. He questioned the student asking her name, grade level and if the apartment buildings were dorms.
About 20 minutes later, another female was approached by the same vehicle in the Dwyer lot as she was walking to her car. The man had approached her by vehicle, asking if she knew where he could buy art or music.
The female had made it to her car safe and fast enough to lock the doors. However, the vehicle then began to follow each turn she made for a short period of time, until she was able to lose him.
Both students of the reported incidents are safe. Campus Safety and the local police department feel optimistic with their efforts to locate the man involved.
It is very important that students understand the measures that Niagara University’s Campus Safety and the local police department take to protect them, as well as what they should be doing to protect themselves.
“I called Campus Safety and also spoke to the Campus Safety supervisor in person,” one female said. “Since then, I have filed an official police report with the Lewiston Police Department. It seemed like Campus Safety responded at a reasonable rate, but looking back they don’t have the resources to properly take care of a safety incident like this. So, I think the cops should have been alerted immediately when I first spoke to them.”
“I feel that if Campus Safety’s presence was stronger around the more secluded places on campus (like the apartments, Dwyer lots) then things like this could be prevented or even addressed before students are put into situations like mine,” said the other female. “It can be scary in the dark when you’re alone and there aren’t a lot of blue lights or people around to help.”
She later added, “I feel like the car that was here shouldn’t have been able to get as far as he did. When I called, Campus Safety did have a quick response time, and from what I know they did notify the local police of what happened. This is comforting to know that my encounter was taken seriously.”
On campus, there are blue safe lights located throughout most areas of the property, including sidewalks and even the biking trail. These blue lights are each tested once a week, and if necessary, immediate repairs are addressed to insure that they are all operating correctly. Unlike most campuses, the blue lights here at Niagara are for non-emergencies as well. Students can always head to a blue light to contact Campus Safety or use the phone lines for other urgent reasons.
Campus safety is available day and night by phone at 716-286-8111. All students and faculty should be sure that this number is stored in their phone.
As stated in an email from Thomas Burns, that was sent to all students following the incident on April 10, students should be aware of the following personal safety information.
“Always be aware of your surroundings on and off campus,” said the email. “When traveling, it is always better to travel with another individual. Trust your instinct: if you see something suspicious, report it immediately to Campus Safety. If possible, try to remember descriptions of people involved, including vehicles, makes, license plate number, etc. You are always welcome to contact Campus Safety for a courtesy escort on campus.”
It is extremely important to take such personal safety measures and be responsible for one’s own personal safety.
“It’s a three-part effort between the students, the community and Campus Safety; it’s people looking out for other people,” Barker added.
John Baker, Director of Campus Safety, recommends that students call Campus Safety first should they find themselves in a situation like this on campus, unless it is a medical or life threatening emergency where medical attention is required. Response time is faster because Campus Safety can get there faster than a police officer from the local department. If students must call 911 for emergency medical services, always also call Campus Safety after, so they can come assist at the scene until police or medical response teams arrive.
Campus Safety stresses the importance of always being aware of the surroundings. If approached by a vehicle and the conversation, person or circumstances seem unusual, recognize that it probably is and immediately call Campus Safety.
Taking personal safety measures as mentioned above are steps that students can take to prevent themselves from encountering such situations or being put in serious danger.