Campus Safety Chief Victor Clay sent out a timely warning to the Occidental community Feb. 10 announcing the ongoing investigation of a man suspected of trespassing, theft and lewd and lascivious acts in Pauley, Braun and Newcomb residence halls between 7:30–11:00 a.m. that day. With the suspect still at large, Campus Safety has heightened surveillance and provided the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) with evidence and witness accounts. The Occidental community, along with major news organizations covering the story — such as ABC 7 and CBS Los Angeles — await the results of the investigation.
Students reported that the suspect stole women’s underwear from the laundry room, masturbated in a shared bathroom, left used condoms throughout the halls and wrote crude messages on residents’ doors. Additionally, Occidental Weekly staff members reported pornography sites opened on a Weekly computer in the Newcomb Media Suite and a sticky, waxy substance on the screen at approximately 8:35 p.m. Feb. 12, according to Jane Drinkard* (senior). The search history on the computer showed time stamps similar to when Campus Safety documented the intruder in Newcomb (Feb. 10 from 9:33–9:55 a.m.). Campus Safety promptly responded to the report and confiscated the computer for further investigation. According to Clay, LAPD is currently testing the material found on the computer for potential genetic evidence. Clay does not know when LAPD will have the test results.
Campus Safety arrived at Pauley in response to a fire alarm Feb. 10. at 7 a.m., according to Clay. Campus Safety did not learn of the intruder until approximately 7:30 a.m. Two students approached the officers to alert them that they saw a suspicious man in the building. The students had not made a formal report to Campus Safety.
“We went back to their room and we found a substance on the door handle and a bed sheet,” Clay said. “[The information] is coming in spoonfuls instead of a full story so it’s kind of difficult to investigate when you have to keep going back and getting evidence that has degraded over time.”
Clay said Campus Safety continued to receive related reports from students that day and collected enough information by late evening to send out a timely warning to the Occidental community and report the incident to LAPD.
A timely warning is issued for any Clery Act crime that poses a serious or continuing threat to the Occidental community. This could include a threat of violent crime or a situation in which the suspect is unknown. As soon as Campus Safety receives a report that goes beyond suspicious circumstance or a conduct violation, they call on LAPD for consultation to determine whether it is a crime or, if the crime is unquestionable, request immediate assistance, according to Clay.
Maggie Mather (senior) emailed Clay Feb. 11 expressing confusion as to why a stranger could enter multiple residence halls before Campus Safety stopped him. Mather posted a screenshot of the email exchange on Facebook.
“As a student who has also experienced threats to my safety on this campus, your actions handling this incident make me even more concerned about my safety at Oxy,” Mather said to Clay via email.
Clay responded with a short response in which he suggested a time that Mather meet with Campus Safety.
“Maybe we should talk before you come to conclusions without having all the FACTS,” Clay said via email.
Mather felt a meeting with him would only serve to defend his actions. She did not meet with Clay.
With experience as a resident advisor (RA) her sophomore year, Shannon Rogers (senior) thinks that Campus Safety’s policies are adequate and appropriate regarding their level of security on campus and informing the community about their activity. She commended Clay for how he handles special circumstances such as offering help to a homeless youth caught stealing on campus.
“Campus Safety probably only gives out information that is absolutely necessary for students to know,” Rogers said. “While that aspect of Campus Safety seems to make some students upset, I think that the information Campus Safety did give out was everything that students needed to know to feel safe.”
Even so, Rogers said both Campus Safety and students have room to improve.
“Campus Safety should have a higher presence in terms of arriving faster to the location where they are needed, and I think this would help students feel safer on campus,” Rogers said. “But I would also say that students have a responsibility to report incidents. Too often, students rely on someone else to report an incident rather than doing it themselves, and incidents end up going unreported.”
Rogers pointed out that a few students responded to some of the intruder’s lewd offenses by posting on Facebook later in the day rather than reporting the incident to an RA or Campus Safety.
According to Clay, Campus Safety’s lagged response to the lewd incidents was a result of delayed reporting by the witnesses or lack thereof.
In response to student complaints regarding Campus Safety’s surveillance and interactions with students, Clay said he looks at the bigger picture.
“If I get 40 complaints, that means that roughly 2060 students are okay with what we do,” Clay said.
Campus Safety continually strives to improve its relationship with the campus community and to be more transparent, Clay said. Prioritizing student well-being, especially in times of individual and community hardships, Campus Safety works with departments across campus — such as Emmons Health Center and Information Technology (IT) — in a Critical Incident Team that coordinates their respective resources to assist Campus Safety and students.
“I’m impressed because until the different departments started talking, you didn’t know what they did in times of crisis,” Clay said. “But now we sit down and talk about it twice a month.”
Campus Safety is planning crisis training sessions for Occidental staff and is working with IT and Facilities to increase security camera surveillance, at least around the campus perimeter, Clay said.
LAPD is currently gathering evidence and witness statements from Occidental, corresponding with nearby police departments and using national crime databases to determine the breadth of the issue. Clay said that LAPD might not report the results from the evidence testing for months due to the lengthy process of forensic testing. In the meantime, Clay staffed three additional Campus Safety officers per shift on overtime.
*Jane Drinkard is the editor-in-chief of the Weekly.