Third assault on Kutztown University campus in one week

Patriot photo by Dan Clark The Bell Plaza was the site of one of the assault incidents on Kutztown University's campus recently.

A Kutztown University student was assaulted on campus March 13, a third assault incident in about a week.

“Last night we learned of the third assault on our campus in the past week,” wrote KU President F. Javier Cevallos in a email message sent to students this morning. “I am very concerned about the safety of our university and can understand the worry these recent incidents has caused all of us.”

On March 8, armed, masked men forced their way into a Deatrick Hall dorm room, searched the room, struck one of the occupants and left without taking anything.

The second incident, a Simple Assault previously classified as a Strong Arm Robbery, occurred March 10 about 2:45 a.m. outside Dixon Hall by the Market Place. According to police, a black male about 5’10 with a short black hair pushed and struck the victim. Nothing was taken.

The third incident, an Aggravated Assault, occurred on March 13 at about 9:40 p.m. at Bell Plaza South Campus. According to police, the victim was approached from behind by two African American males, one of which struck the victim. The victim fought back, and the second male then joined in the confrontation. One of the males pulled a knife and the victim continued to fight back. The alleged suspects then fled into Kutztown Borough. Police described the two suspects as being dressed in black hoodies, blue jeans, and an article of clothing that covered their face from their nose down. One was wearing tan Timberland boots.

“As a campus community, we cannot tolerate this behavior. We must work together to reclaim our campus and our personal safety,” wrote Cevallos.

Matthew Santos, director of University Relations, said the first two incidents may not have been random but it is too early in the investigation to determine if the third was random. Nothing was taken in all three incidents. When asked about the assaults having any relation to gang violence or fraternity hazing, Santos could not say if there was any relation but that police are looking into all possibilities.

The university has been receiving calls and emails from concerned parents and students.

“I think because we’ve had a series of three incidents in a week it certainly raised concerns for students and parents and the campus community in general,” said Santos.

He said KU always encourages the campus community to be vigilant about personal safety.

“You’re not immune to incidents in 2013,” he said.

When comparing KU and Kutztown Borough to similar university towns, Santos said the statistics show that Kutztown is a relatively safe area.

“When you see three incidents, it does raise concern,” Santos said.

Responding to concerns, Bob Watrous, Dean of Students, sent out an email message to students on March 12.

“Regardless of the situation, members of the university community will continue to be alerted when an alleged crime has occurred that poses a potential threat to personal safety. This is done so that everyone can take the proper steps to remain safe.”

In addition, Watrous wrote that the emailed alerts potentially allows the “KU family to assist in identifying the alleged perpetrators of these acts to campus police, so that they can address them and bring them to justice.”

He also advised the entire campus community to use caution regarding personal safety.

“These crimes are an affront to our sense of campus safety and it is up to all of us to do our part,” wrote Watrous. “No matter where you are -- on or off campus, at home, away on spring break -- be aware of your surroundings, walk with friends, and most importantly, report any suspicious activity to police. Ultimately, we are all stakeholders in helping to prevent and solve crime.”

Campus Police are working closely with the Pennsylvania State Police to actively investigate the situation. State Police are second responders for KU, which is located in Maxatawny Township.

KU will be increasing security patrols on campus starting tonight, March 14, and are looking into long-term security improvements as well.

Santos said the University is asking students to be vigilant and help by reporting any suspicious activity.

If a witness to a crime, students are encouraged to contact police as soon as possible. Crimes can be reported anonymously to Campus Police on campus by dialing 3TIPS. Off campus call Berks Crime Alert at 1-877-373-9913.

“Please keep your personal safety in mind when you are out on campus and in the borough tonight and in the future,” wrote Cevallos. “While Kutztown has long been considered a safe place, it only takes inappropriate behavior by a few individuals to tarnish that reputation. Be sure to walk together in groups, use our police escort service if you are alone, and report any suspicious activity to the police.”

Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact the University Police at 610-683-4001. Confidential information can be given by dialing extension 610-683-TIPS or 610-683-8477.

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