November 7, 2010

Police Checking IDs at Crime Scene

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Following three forcible touching incidents — one of which involved a strong-armed robbery — and several burglaries at Collegetown restaurants, the Cornell University Police Department is requiring students who regularly cross the suspension bridge to present their Cornell identification  cards to police and provide any information they may have about these incidents.

CUPD has used these nighttime checks in the past to canvass, or gain information on open investigations, according to Cornell Police Chief Kathy Zoner.

“We go back to the area where the crime occurs, talk to people and see what they may have witnessed but haven’t reported,” Zoner said. “Sometimes people see things but don’t know what they’ve seen is helpful to the investigation, so we try to be proactive and get information from them.”

Because Cornell is private property, the University is able to mandate that all students, faculty and staff carry their cards at all times and show them to officers upon request. Identification cards are community members’ permission to be on campus, Zoner said.

Without the legal ability to stop students and faculty, local police officials said tracking witnesses and leads would be significantly more difficult.

“It’s one of the best tools you have to make sure you don’t leave any stones unturned,” Tompkins County Sheriff Peter Meskill said.

Canvassing on the suspension bridge will continue until police feel they are no longer obtaining productive leads from passersby, according to Zoner.

Some students said they find the questioning intrusive.

“It’s a little strange to be asked for your information without knowing why,” Alexander Prach ’13 said.

Zoner said she was not sure how often CUPD has used canvassing in the past, but said that it has aided several recent investigations. Police may contact community members who provide relevant information, while records from residents without useful information will be used to verify that they talked with police, she said.

“Sometimes the conversations are fruitful, and sometimes it’s just saying ‘hi’ to a police officer,” Zoner said.

CUPD has increased the number of on-duty officers in response to the recent incidents, according to Zoner.

Police have also used Crime Alerts to seek leads from potential witnesses who may not have already come forward. Significant criminal incidents that elicit a warning within 24 hours “include, but are not limited to, crimes of violence or patterns of property crimes,” according to the CUPD website.

Original Author: Dan Robbins