A number of violent incidents occurred on and near campus during the early morning of Dec. 10 involving Drexel University students.
An altercation between six students at 3:30 a.m. on the 3300 block of Race Street between Myers Hall and Race Hall resulted in one person being stabbed and sent to the hospital overnight. Two of the aforementioned students were charged with aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and simple assault.
Additionally, at 4:15 a.m. of the same morning, a 21-year-old student living on 3400 block of Spring Garden Street had an unknown male invade her home, threaten her with a meat cleaver and rape her before fleeing the scene.
Drexel informed its students of the first incident hours after it took place, but the sexual assault went unreported by Drexel until the following day, with students and their families finding out about the assault through local news.
“Drexel Police learned of the incident through an internal Philadelphia Police Emergency Notification System. Following Drexel’s outreach, the Philadelphia Police Department confirmed that the report involved a 21-year-old female Drexel student. Drexel Police has been working closely with the Philadelphia Police Special Victims Unit regarding the assault,” Vice President of Public Safety Domenic Ceccanecchio wrote in an email to the student body Dec. 11.
The series of violent crimes happening on campus did not end there. On Dec. 11 both Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania sent out alerts for two incidents of indecent assault by a 55-year-old man on 34th and Spring Garden streets, the very same location of the sexual assault of the previous day. The man was later apprehended after he was found dragging a woman down 41st and Pine streets.
“A man fitting the description of recent assaults on females was arrested, mid-attack near the Penn campus, by the Philadelphia Police,” said the Drexel Public Safety advisory sent to students.
The man had approached the woman from behind and clubbed her in the head with a bicycle lock. After sexually assaulting her, he then proceeded to drag her away until Philadelphia Police officers approached him.
The man, identified as James Barrett in an article by Philly.com, was already suspected of both robbery and sexual assault. He is not, however, being suspected of the sexual assault of a Drexel student that took place Dec. 10.
The string of serial incidents as well as proximity to student housing brought a mix of outcries from students and parents alike. While the majority of crime took place off-campus, the off-campus incidents were only two blocks away, where public safety officers still patrolled. The stabbing took place in front of one of the freshman dormitories, located in the middle of campus.
Drexel has stated that the delayed response to the stabbing incident and why no DrexelAlert was sent was due to the perpetrator being immediately apprehended; therefore, there was no ongoing threat. In that case, standard protocol does not require giving notification.
However, the administration has yet to give an explanation as to why the sexual assault of a student was not reported immediately while the perpetrator is still at large. The Office of Communications issued a statement the next day, reporting that the Drexel Police found out about the incident through the Philadelphia Police Department when it happened but no DrexelAlert was sent at the time.
Prior to the statement, students and families of those attending Drexel found out via news and other local media.
In light of these recent events, Drexel has begun to issue DrexelAlerts much more frequently. Despite campus extending simply to Powelton Avenue, a majority of students live farther away — closer to Spring Garden and Hamilton streets, where Public Safety’s jurisdiction begins to blur. At the same time, much of the crime reported via DrexelAlert takes place in this area. For now, Drexel ended its statement by advising students to walk in groups and in well-lit areas and to always exert caution and awareness.
Depending on the outcome of these miscommunications between students and administration, security protocols and actions may have to be changed and augmented in the future in order to provide better safety and peace of mind for those attending classes at Drexel.