It seemed like a typical Friday evening for Townhouse (TH) resident Alysa Chen ’23. She was in her room doing her homework when she suddenly received a crime alert notification from Safety and Security Investigator Joseph Chorba on her phone.
At around midnight, on Friday, Sept. 17, Vassar Safety and Security dispatched an email alerting students about an attempted burglary that had occurred at the THs around 11:05 p.m. Though the incident rattled some students, Safety and Security is taking action to quell their concerns.
“We received a call from a third party not present at the TH that a possible attempted burglary might have occurred,” explained Director of Safety & Security Arlene Sabo. “We responded both to the TH and the general area. We confirmed that no one was injured, no burglar was in the TH but that there had, indeed, been an attempted burglary,” she added. Sabo explained that a witness had seen a person near a broken window, but the witness could not provide a description of the person. The inhabitants of the targeted TH declined to comment due to privacy concerns.
Students expressed that receiving this notification was scary. Right after receiving the text, Chen sprung into action. She immediately locked all of her windows and doors and checked in on her housemates.
Reflecting back on the event, Chen expressed concern about the one-hour delay between the burglary attempt and the campus-wide crime alert: “If something did happen to our house and we didn’t catch that burglar in time, what would have happened?”
Safety and Security Director Arlene Sabo addressed student concern regarding the delayed notification time. She explained that Safety & Security assesses alerts based on the level of urgent threat to the community and the timeliness in which to report the event, in accordance with the Clery Act. “If the report is made in a timely manner and may pose a more immediate, on-going threat to our community (i.e., an incident like this one), we will send messages via phone, text, and email as soon as we have gathered enough facts to answer the most immediate questions people might have,” detailed Sabo. “If the report involves a weapon or involves another life-threatening emergency, we will send an alert ASAP and send subsequent updates as we attain the information. This last type of alert may involve swiftly changing information.”
To help further ease student trepidation, Sabo also outlined additional provisions Safety and Security will be implementing in response to the recent burglary. She stated that Safety & Security will add an additional officer to the night time post. “We are examining other more permanent options,” Sabo explained.
In the wake of the attempted burglary, Chen still remains apprehensive: “I have a heightened amount of anxiety just coming home at night, and making sure that my windows and my doors are closed properly.” She added, “I don’t think that extra anxiety helps students…but also it doesn’t help after a pandemic, especially during the late stages of one.”
The recent burglarization at the THs is not the first time that Safety and Security has had to address crimes on campus. For instance, there was a series of crimes reported during Halloween of 2019 and a string of robberies in the fall of 2015 (Liederman 2019; Johnson 2015).
For future reference, Sabo provided some guidelines for students to follow in order to best protect themselves against burglaries. She advised students to call the following emergency contact numbers for Safety and Security as soon as they observe behavior that is criminal or that may compromise the safety of fellow community members:
- Vassar Safety Security Department: 845-437-7333
- Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department: 8450485-3666
Sabo also reminded students to initiate phone calls only on account of problematic behavior rather than biases.