Public Safety police officers are still investigating the two assaults that occurred on-campus earlier this month. At this time, the University Police have no suspects and do not believe the assaults are related.
All enrolled West Chester University students were informed via e-mail with the details of the assaults that occurred approximately at 7:15 p.m. on Feb. 5 and Feb. 11, a few minutes before 2 a.m. “We want to keep our campus safe and aware [of the events],” Chief Michael Bicking, Director of the Department of Public Safety, said in regards to the safety alerts that were sent out after the reports were made to the police.
The first assault occurred in the path near the water tower when the victim walked from D lot. A female described that a male tackled her to the ground. The victim fled to another building after the attack. The second assault took place in the Residential Quad, between University and Allegheny Halls. A delivery driver, subjected to a punch to his face, reported the assault to a visible Public Safety security officer who was walking near the scene. Despite the 5’8″ medium/thin build physical description in both assaults, Bicking said the police do not believe the male, who was described as Caucasian in both assaults, is the same assailant.
As in all assault cases, the investigating officers attended a standard walk-through with the victim to get a visual of the route taken. The video cameras in the parking lots of both crime scenes will be under review to locate the movements of the alleged instigator. Sgt. Matthew Paris said while reviewing the footage, police will look for the suspect by matching the physical description given in the report to persons at the scene.
“After three or four nights you have your best recollection [of what occurred],” Sgt. Paris said. He added that people would recall more details of how the assault took place. Paris and Detective James Kalavik, the investigators of the case, are still reviewing footage from roughly 16 cameras. The various camera angles allows the investigating officers to “collect pictures to make the story” and a timeline, Paris said. The two officers have completed a one-year FBI crime scene investigation program.
Both of the on-going investigations will involve reviewing cameras located in nearby parking lots. The review of the video footage will include hours before and after the approximate time the assaults occurred. This enables the officers to develop a solid timeline of the occurring events. “We’ve been solving crime this way for a long time,” Paris said, as he deemed the cameras to be a great tool. The security systems, including such technology as cameras, access controls and alarms, are valued at $8.5 million, Bicking said.
Along with the footage, Paris said the card swipe access in the residence halls allows the police to know the names of residents who have entered their residence, giving them a list of potential witnesses. The residents who entered the residence halls before or after the assault may be able to help put together a timeline of the events, as well as being able to give the officers information.
“This creates a pool of possible witnesses,” Paris said. The investigating officers will be contacting the potential witnesses from the use of the card swipe access machines to the residence halls near by the scenes.
Bicking said the technology on-campus has obtained arrests in the past. It speeds up the process of the investigation, Paris added. All crimes should be reported immediately, Paris said, as it helps in aiding police in the investigation. By reporting crimes right away, Paris explained, more officers can respond on–scene to gather more witnesses who may still be on the scene, and to collect evidence. The evidence needs to be preserved, he said, before it is destroyed by outside factors.
WCU President, Greg Weisenstein, announced via e-mail, a campus community responsibility to report suspicious behavior and all crimes to the Public Safety Police. The newsletter, printed in The Quad, appeared the day after the first assault. Students were informed of the assault a few days later when it was reported to the police.
A representative from the Department of Public Safety completes a monthly report, indicating which lights need replacement bulbs around campus, as well as determines if any areas lack good lighting. Bicking said Public Safety would be looking into the lighting near the water tower, the area of the assault that occurred on Super Bowl Sunday, to determine if additional lighting will be necessary.
Both assaults occurred when the victims were walking alone on-campus. The number of requested walking escorts, a service provided by the Department of Public Safety, has not peaked since the reported assaults.
“I would like to see students use this [service] more,” Bicking said. He added that most escorts are requested during the winter, when the weather gets cold, rainy, and snowy.
Paris said the escort service allows for the police to interact with students. According to Paris, the night after the second assault, Saturday Feb. 11, only two students requested a safety-walking escort.
If you have any information on either assault case, contact Sgt. Paris or Det. Kalavik at 610-436-3311 or to call 610-436-1000 to leave an anonymous tip.
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a fifth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.