A suspicious trespasser, a man threatening assaults on women and a stun gun have kept Campus Public Safety busy this past month. In light of these situations, CPS’s process for sharing critical information to the Pacific community is being seriously evaluated.
“Keep your eyes and ears open,” said Chief Public Safety Officer Rob Dahl. “Be an active participant in making this a safe community.”
The first instance of concern was the suspicious trespasser who is the main suspect in several similar cases reported to CPS. He was reported following female students across campus during the late night or early hours. He is a registered sex offender in Oregon, but is not under any specific restrictions or court supervision. The last interaction CPS had with him was Oct. 13 when he was issued him a trespass warning. The warning is a written notice that includes a map illustrating the boundaries of Pacific.
“We aren’t the police, but the university is private property,” said Dahl. “We can tell people they are not welcome.”
CPS officers did extra research on the trespasser and reached out to the Forest Grove Police Department to confirm the trespasser did indeed have a criminal history.
Dahl said he assured the trespasser is being watched very closely.
“Between us and the police he’s getting a lot of attention,” said Dahl. “And he’s not happy about it.”
The next instance of concern occurred when the Forest Grove Police Department contacted CPS. Christopher Coan is still in the area, although he often resides in Hillsboro, said Dahl.
Coan has a history of mental illness and has been exhibiting bizarre behavior, specifically threating to assault women.
For both the trespasser and Coan, there was no legal initiative for CPS to notify the general public of Pacific.
These two cases did not fall under the Clery Act, which requires all colleges and universities participating in federal financial aid to release information about crime on and near campus. CPS determined these two individuals to be high-risk and as a responsibility to the university disclosed information regarding them.
“There was enough information we felt the need to share that,” said Dahl. “Sharing the information should increase the safety and awareness.”
A notice was emailed specifically to students in residence halls on the Forest Grove campus, because there are no hard and fast guidelines for timely warning notices. But because of the recent events, that is about to change.
“The system for notifying students is under critical review right now,” said Dahl. “How information gets shared is muddy right now.”
Later this week, CPS will take part in a high-level meeting to clearly outline polices and procedures for how timely warning pieces will be handled.
“It’s a very delicate surface we have to walk on,” said Dahl. “It’s being looked at very closely.”
These warnings were very different than the purpose of Boxer Alerts, intended to give real time information, but CPS is reviewing their system for immediate threats as well.
On Oct. 25, a nurse at the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Cornelius saw what she thought to be a hand gun and following policies regarding safety, reported so to her supervisor.
“We will always respond to a call like that,” said Dahl.
The suspect was contacted and revealed he had a store-bought stun gun on his person, which is legal in Oregon. Depending on which Boxer Alert locations an individual signed up for theyperson received different notifications.
Individuals signed up for the Hillsboro campus Boxer Alerts were notified of the “gunman” via text message immediately and given updates as CPS addressed the issue.
The participants solely signed up for the Forest Grove campus Boxer Alerts were notified that the “gunman” had been taken into custody without a forewarning of a gunman.
Dahl said CPS is constantly reviewing after each Boxer Alert to improve the system. Due to the confusion that occurred between campuses and an increase in interaction between the campuses, eliminating the option to choose a specific campus within Boxer Alerts has been considered.
After the incident at the Virginia Garcia Wellness Center, Boxer Alert participation is still minimal.
“Our best participation rate is 20 percent,” said Dahl.
Given all the odd activities recently, Dahl said he urges students to take proactive safety measures and use the services CPS provides.
Along with Boxer Alerts, CPS provides an escort program. As part of their role, CPS officers are available to escort students, faculty and staff on or off campus to insure safety.
While social networking sites are a widely popular option, CPS wants to assure that the information being shared is correct.
“I caution people to use Facebook and Twitter wisely to share accurate information,” said Dahl. “Not to inflame a situation.”
There are dangerous individuals in every community, known or not to the individuals there. CPS’s job is to make sure Pacific’s community is as protected as possible.
The threats are still out there, said Dahl. Timeliness in reporting suspicious behavior has been a challenge for CPS to track down suspects. He said 15 minutes makes all the difference.
“We are here to serve,” said Dahl. “If we don’t know what’s going on, there’s nothing we can do about it.”