Two reported sexual assaults on Sunday represent a fraction of a larger danger to students, according to Cornell police.
“It seems that violent crimes are on the rise or violent crimes are being reported more often,” Kathy Zoner, chief of the Cornell University Police Department, said in a presentation to the Student Assembly on Thursday. “What we get reported to us is barely touching the surface of what goes on on this campus.”
CUPD receives few reports of rapes, and those that are reported are not always included in crime alert emails, according to Zoner. But the events of last weekend caused an “ongoing and imminent danger,” to the Cornell community, Zoner said, and thus necessitated a timely warning to the public.
Zoner said that due to the narrow window of time in which Sunday’s crimes occurred, CUPD is investigating whether any of the three were committed by the same perpetrator.
“The case is still very, very active. We do have a number of good leads and are looking forward to a positive resolution [of the case],” she said.
In the meantime, the University is taking further measures to enhance safety on campus. She said Cornell police have increased their presence on campus by adding staff and upping their patrols, as well as improving the availability of blue light escorts.
Lighting at the on-campus locations where the incidents occurred — the Hughes parking lot and the stairs leading down to the south side of the Suspension Bridge — has been improved, Zoner said. Two new blue light phones have also been approved for installation along the Fall Creek gorge trail, she said, and approval for additional phones at two other locations is pending.
Use of the blue light phone escort service has increased since Sunday, according to Zoner.
At Thursday’s meeting, Geoffrey Block ’14, S.A. representative at-large, asked Chief Zoner whether she thought students should be permitted to carry weapons of self-defense, such as pepper spray.
Zoner replied that her personal opinion on pepper spray is that it requires training for effective use and, even then, “doesn’t really work.”
In an email sent to the entire student body Thursday, President David Skorton said the victims of the recent assaults are receiving support from University staff. He urged members of the Cornell community to report any incidents of violence that they witness or experience.
“We urge members of our community … to work together toward a culture where sexual violence and intolerance are unacceptable,” Skorton said in the email.
Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that there were three reported sexual assaults on campus Sunday. In fact, Chief of Police Kathy Zoner said there were two reported sexual assaults and one reported act of harassment. Additionally, a previous version of this story incorrectly quoted Zoner as saying the number of blue light calls — emergency requests made on campus — has increased. In fact, Zoner said that the number of blue light escort requests — which are not done in an emergency or from a campus blue light phone — has increased.