Last Monday, Feb. 8, Union students received an email from Director of Campus Safety Chris Hayen regarding a robbery that occurred on campus on Saturday, Feb. 6, at 11:30 p.m. The email stated that no weapons were displayed, but a cellphone and iPad were stolen.
Upon committing the robbery, the two suspects in the robbery evacuated campus immediately but were apprehended.
The stolen property was recovered and charges were filed. No injuries were reported.
Hayen’s email reminded the campus to remain alert and contact Campus Safety “whenever any suspicious activity is witnessed.”
When asked about the robbery, Hayen said that the individual who was allegedly robbed did a “wonderful job remaining calm (and) identifying the perpetrators,” which allowed for his department and the Schenectady Police Department to arrest the alleged thieves.
Hayen emphasized that Union’s Campus Safety Department “places the highest priority on maintaining a safe campus and … work(ing) with the students, staff and faculty in (ensuring) that they have the necessary tools and protections to address crime issues.” He stated that public awareness is “paramount” to the success of this effort.
Union’s campus is equipped with over 30 exterior cameras and over 40 blue phone locations for assistance in crime prevention and response. Along the perimeter of campus are cameras that communicate directly with the Schenectady Police Department.
In addition to on-campus safety, however, there exists the issue of off-campus safety for many Union students living in off-campus residences.
Several students who live off campus attest to feeling uneasy with the level of security in the area, especially when it is dark out.
Off-campus resident Ethan Lubowitz ’16 stated: “Since Campus Safety officers are driving around all night, they should always have at least one officer stationed on Gillespie Street and University Place on all hours of the night. Or even on just the weekends.”
Sarah Dimmitt ’16 recounted a negative experience from New Years Day to reinforce her concerns about off-campus residential safety.
On Jan. 1, upon returning from running errands, Sarah Dimmitt ’16 parked her car approximately 200 yards from her off-campus house, located at 1063 University Pl. According to Dimmitt, it was 6 p.m. but already dark outside.
She walked from her car with her groceries and passed a man and woman walking in the opposite direction.
According to Dimmitt, at the same moment she passed the two, she hit the lock screen on her iPhone, causing it to go from light to dark. The positioning of the streetlights allowed her to see a shadow run up from behind her.
The person was approximately a foot and a half away from her when he told her, “Give me your phone.” Dimmitt quickly responded “no” and rushed away.
Dimmitt realized that the male figure was following her and broke into a run. She reached her house, and the man followed her onto the porch. Dimmitt said the man lunged at her slightly, and she yelled at him to get off of her porch.
She then began knocking on the door of her house, yelling for her roommates. At that point, the man off sprinted away, down the middle of University Place toward Union Street.
Dimmitt stated that she noticed the woman who was originally walking with the man had observed the entire altercation, following the man when he ran away.
After she took approximately a half hour to collect herself and calm down, Dimmitt called Campus Safety, who instructed her to hang up and call the Schenectady Police Department.
The Schenectady Police responded quickly, sending an officer approximately five to 10 minutes later. Dimmitt provided a statement to the Schenectady Police and to a Campus Safety officer who had been sent over from College Park Hall to take notes. Dimmitt added that: “the police officer gave (her) more input than the Campus Safety officer.”
Following this event, Dimmitt shared that she and the other nine women living in her house were “terrified” to walk anywhere alone when it was dark outside.
She said the altercation came as a wake-up call to everyone in her house, and that they “all have to make a conscious effort to not walk home by (them)selves — whether it be 6 p.m. and already dark or 12 p.m.”
The two police officers that took Dimmitt’s statement ensured her that they would make sure to patrol University Place more often.
Dimmitt said, “If my street was better lit by streetlights, maybe the incident would not have been as likely to happen.”
Dimmitt added that she and her housemates have since downloaded a smartphone application called Companion.
According to CNN, Companion was created over a year ago by a group of five students at the University of Michigan. The app lets users send requests to phone contacts to virtually track their trips using GPS.
Companion’s motto is “Never Walk Alone,” it and labels itself as a personal safety service and “mobile blue light.” In addition to allowing users to share their location with a friend, the app also has an option that allows users to call the police if they need to.
On the topic of off-campus safety, Hayen stated that he receives about four emails a week from the Schenectady Police Department Detective Division, which informs him of city crime incidents, including dates and locations. These alerts report on the most recent robberies, filed interviews of suspicious people, released inmates, burglaries and shots fired.
Hayen stated, “When I have been made aware of any uptick in criminal behavior in off-campus areas, I have personally notified those respective off-campus students either by email or personal meetings that may include the Dean of Students Office, Residential Life and others.”
Hayen added that he and Assistant Director of Campus Safety Thomas Constantine have previously walked the areas, handing out literature and speaking with students.
Hayen said he is available for any further discussions with students regarding off-campus living, including risks and suspicious behavior. If students were to notify Campus Safety of suspicious behavior, he stated, “We will then work with and immediately notify SPD for their involvement.”