Columbia Assaults Make Local News; Campus Alert Nonexistent

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News trucks for the local ABC and FOX affiliates were spotted outside of Ricky’s, to report on a series of assaults that took place on Sunday night. Seven students were assaulted between 12:00 and 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning, between 113th and 122nd Streets, along both Amsterdam and Broadway. Only one student was actually robbed, according to ABC7’s report, but all were physically assaulted.

Happily, the suspects were clearly captured on video camera, which led to a picture of them (seen at right, courtesy the Department of Public Safety) in a campus alert from Public Safety.  One suspect has been arrested.

Yet, despite posters being put up in a few locations on campus, and a short report carried in the Spectator, in almost two days since the incident, Columbia University Public Safety has made no other comments to any press at this time, nor has it sent out an email alert to the campus. Bwog repeatedly contacted Public Safety for comment, but was told to talk to Public Affairs. 

We will keep you updated as more news comes in.

Photo from Public Safety via Spectator

UPDATE 9:43 PM, TUESDAY: As several commenters have noted, Barnard students received a security alert late last night. This email is below, courtesy of Bwog informant Robyn Schneider.

UPDATE 10:56 PM, TUESDAY: Law students received a similar email late Sunday night as well. Hat tip to law schooler John Koerner.

UPDATE 9:33 AM, WEDNESDAY: Columbia Public Safety has circulated via e-mail a PDF message from James McShane. Contents after the jump.

UPDATE 12:45 pm, THURSDAY: NYPD Arrests 5 Suspects

To the Barnard Community,

The following Security Alerts have been posted by Columbia University. Photos of suspects wanted for the Assault crimes will be posted on the red security boards throughout our campus. I am sending this out as a reminder to always be ALERT and AWARE of your surroundings. AVOID distractions and ALWAYS tell someone where you are going and when you are expected back.

Columbia University Department of Public Safety SECURITY ALERT: ROBBERY/ASSAULTS

On Sunday, October 12, 2008, between midnight and 1a.m. seven students reported that they were assaulted in several different incidents while walking near the Morningside campus. In at least one case, the suspects took property from the victim.  The students report being approached and/or surrounded by a group of five to seven black males ranging in age from 20-25 years old.  The victims were physically assaulted by the group.  The suspects attacked victims in various locations including West 113 St. near Broadway, West 114 St. between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave., West 117 St. and Amsterdam Ave., and West 122 St. and Broadway.

If you have any information about these crimes or are aware of any other incidents, contact the 26 Pct. Detective Squad at 212-678-1351, 52 or 53.

If you observe anyone acting in a suspicious or threatening manner, dial 911 immediately and attempt to find a safe location.

Bike Owners,

There has been a spike in bike thefts on the Columbia campus. Please do not use any type of wire / cable locks to secure your bike, they can easily be cut and your bike stolen. Please use a U-shape type lock to secure your frame & tire to a bike rack. Please avoid securing your bike to a handrail, stairwell or to the poles and chains that separate the grass and cement on the Low Plaza or College Walk. These poles can easily be removed and your bike stolen.

To see a complete list of bike rack locations on campus please visit the CU Public safety website www.columbia.edu/cu/publicsafety

Campus Bike racks are for daily use, NOT for long time storage.

CU Public Safety offers FREE bike registration with the NYPD & CU by appointment, a unique ID number is engraved on the bike and a non-removable Police sticker is placed on the bike.

Public Safety also offers discount bike locks as little as $15.

The Club Ultra U-lock-  $15

The Krytonite NY U-lock-  $50

The NY Forgetaboutit Chain- $75

Bike locks can be purchased in room 111 Low Library Mon-Fri  9a-5p. Morningside Campus

At the Medical Center campus 24 hrs in room 109 William Black Bldg.

For more information on bike registration & bike locks please call 854-8513.

A Message to the Columbia Community from Vice President for Public Safety James F. McShane

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

As you may already know, a number of members of the Columbia community were assaulted late Saturday evening near campus. I am writing to update you on the status of this investigation and to inform you of some important Public Safety services that are available to you. With respect to the investigation, one of the suspects was apprehended that night after being identified by a witness. At this point, we believe that all of these assaults were committed by the same group of young men over an approximately 50 minute period. Our video security system has provided the police and public with essential information in the investigation. We are, therefore, hopeful that additional arrests will be made shortly.

In the meantime, I would like to remind you of some important things that our Department of Public Safety has been doing to maintain the security and well being of our University community.

First of all, uniformed Public Safety personnel are stationed at fixed locations throughout the Morningside area and on the uptown Medical Center campus. These include guard booths at the main gates on 116th Street at both Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, which are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These posts are supplemented by foot , bicycle and motorized patrols that provide a highly visible presence in the areas around both campuses. In recent months, we have increased our foot and motorized patrols throughout the area.

All of our undergraduate residences are staffed by Public Safety personnel or trained student aides who control access to these buildings on a 24 hour basis. All students and visitors are screened.

We also operate two 24-hour emergency operations centers, one on each campus. On the Morningside campus, we can be reached in an emergency by dialing 212-854-5555 on any phone. For routine business, you can reach us by calling 212-854-2797. At the Medical Center, the emergency response number is 212-305-7979.

There is also an extensive system of video cameras that we use to investigate crimes. In addition, emergency call boxes, that connect directly to our 24 hour operations centers, are installed in strategic locations across both campuses and surrounding areas.

Last year we introduced a text messaging system which can be used to transmit emergency messages to portable devices such as cell phones. Initially, the service was available only to the student body. This year, it was made available to faculty and staff, as well.

Finally, we have a staff of highly trained investigators who work hand in hand with the N.Y.P.D. to investigate matters that relate to the Columbia campuses. We are in daily contact with the 26th Precinct detectives.

We also employ a number of Crime Prevention Initiatives of which not everyone may be aware. For example, we operate a Morningside Heights shuttle service that provides scheduled service throughout the Morningside campus area during the evening hours, between 7:00 P.M. and 11:00 P.M. Thereafter, this shuttle service offers on-call service between 11:00 P.M and 2:00 A.M. daily. This service ranges as far south as 103rd Street and as far north as 135th Street. Resources permitting, we supplement this service with patrol vehicles. Last semester we added an additional point to point shuttle vehicle which operates between the hours of 10 P.M. and 6 A.M.

We also offer an escort service where trained students will accompany you to your door any time from 7:00 P.M. until 3:00 A.M. This service is available between 108th Street and 122nd Street. At the Medical Center, escorts are available between W. 165th Street and W. 181st Street. For this service, call 212-854-SAFE on the Morningside Campus and 212-305-8100 on the Medical Center Campus.

Additionally, Operation “Safe Haven” provides 65 storefront locations across both campuses where people who may feel threatened can take refuge. The merchants will call Public Safety and/or the N.Y.P.D. who will respond immediately. Look for the “Red Lion” sticker in the window of the store.

Finally, we are sponsoring a ‘Street Smarts’ seminar on Wednesday, October 29th, at 6 P.M. in Jerome Green Hall, Room 103. This seminar will feature important crime prevention presentations from members of Public Safety and the N.Y.P.D. All are invited to attend.

The Department of Public Safety is here to keep you safe. We look forward to working together with all of you to keep our environment secure. I encourage anyone with a concern to contact Public Safety at 212-854-2797, day or night. For more information about Public Safety and the services we provide, please also see our annual Security Report online at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/publicsafety/SecurityReport.pdf.

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  1. Hi Public safety  

    Thanks for being so great. You've really kept us safe, clamping down on alcohol and drug use seems to have been a really useful thing to devote your resources to over the past three years. Ah yes, your vigilance in confiscating beer at homecoming really makes me feel safe and secure. Love ya!

  2. ...

    this is kind of a big deal... such assaults are particularly strange when there was no robbing... that's assault for the sake of assault... why isn't there more fuss over this??????

    student council and a bunch of student groups raised a hissy-fit over ROTC which doesn't directly impact most of our lives...

    but when people are actually getting physically assaulted on the streets, no one does anything? just an honorable mention in the spec?

    • ....

      oh... and one more completely unrelated point to my last post, we should probably get used to this stuff happening more often in the coming years

      the fall of wall street will certainly effect the socio-economics of this city and the crime rate in a few years... in a couple years we'll be woefully missing the days of gentrification

    • don't blame  

      student groups for this. It was all the Councils. Nobody gave a flying fuck until they were suckered into the issue by Rajat Roy (and to a lesser extent Adil Ahmed) who is known to want ROTC back on campus.

    • i hear you

      the student councils should have gone into def con 4 mode in anticipation of such attacks.

      What good is a student council if it can't preemptively table everything for a potential emergency that hadn't happened yet?

      also @14--the targeting of asian students doesn't strike me as that far fetched considering the most recent tragedy which befell the campus

  3. West Harlem  

    Strikes Back?

  4. Wait.  

    I got an e-mail alert? Maybe just sent to Barnard.

  5. nice  

    my mom found out about this on the news before i did

    • Yup  

      Mine too...this afternoon, when I still had no idea about any of it. That made for a fun phone call.

    • haha  

      she actually found out from a colleague at work who learned about it from the news, and i learned about it from my mom's e-mail about how i should give up all my possessions if that ever happened to me. then she called me and i was like wtf... i didn't hear about this, where'd you get this info? so she was comforted by that.. lol

  6. I heard

    one of the 7 black males was Barack Obama! Haven't you heard, that gosh darned man pals around with terrorists and muggers!

  7. The blonde  

    A fox news reporter was asking people for interviews on 112th/113th. She explained the assaults were targeted at asian students. Can anyone confirm this? Or is fox's reporting, for once and only this once, incorrect?

  8. Stay Safe!

    I forgot to mention, everyone should watch this self-defense video:
    It has saved countless lives, and the next one could be yours!

  9. i hate school  

    i hope i get shot in the head

  10. Also  

    It amuses me that Nina Pineda refers to "The Spec" instead of the The Spectator. LOL@ABC.

  11. pepper spray


    i bought a pack for my family, but they refuse to carry it around. when i nag my older sister, she throws it in her purse before a night out on the town. now if only i could get her to make a habit of it...i'm such a mom.

  12. street smarts  

    nothing good ever happens after midnight, stay indoors people!

  13. vicious cycle

    ok, other adventurous ny'ers and i will stop going out after midnight from now on

    as a result bars and other places that thrive at those times will close down

    unemployment will go up, those closed down places will become barren and run down and crime will go up even more

    with increased crime everybody will now be afraid to go out after 10 and restaurants and other bars will close down

    more joblessness, more dilapidated streets, more crime

    we'll get even more afraid to go out even earlier and our nocturnal trips outside will soon be limited to the now ironically named 'take back the night' event

    why do you hate freedom?

  14. ...  




    encl; feces

  15. also  

    there was a CBS truck parked in front of hamdel at about 7. wondered what it was about.

  16. Public Safety  

    Is disgustingly useless. Their unwillingness to act on behalf of the safety of Columbia's students borders maliciousness.

    I really do hope that people who do feel that Public Safety has failed the student body make their views known to the Columbia administration. Maybe they'll finally do something about it.

  17. Anonymous  

    the guy in charge of public safety is a complete at utter douchebag. i had to interview him once for something and i was respectful and didnt ask anything intrusive, yet he still treated me like i wasnt worth the time of day. does he remember that his job and those below him is to protect the student body???? also, i agree with the above sentiment. the war on fun (drugs, alchohol, parties, etc) is a non issue compared to serious violence that occurs in/around campus. get your act together public safety and start protecting students rather than just being a useless pain in the ass

  18. wtf  

    why isn't this being investigated as a hate crime?
    I guess only white people can be charged for that. The one major exception being that anyone can be charged for anti-semitism. Asians really need to get their heads out of their books and start acting like a real community instead of just a demographic.

    • hmmm

      Strange how you seem to have a special need to trivialize antisemitism.

      • wtf  

        no, i'm just pointing on the hypocrisy of it all. White ppl are always the racists and black ppl are always the victims. And if you care to open your eyes, you would see that the biggest exception is anti-semitism....what I was implying by that and the following sentence is that the reason for this is that the jewish community is extremely well mobilized and organized. The asian community is not. Actually, the irony is that you seem to be proving my point.

    • bias  

      who are you to inform an entire racial group on how to act?

      you seem to suggest that the only appropriate way for this incident to be investigated as a hate crime is through the work of asians, and asians alone.

      asians don't need to get their heads out of their books and start acting like a real community. AMERICANS need to get their heads out of tired understandings of racial division, and start acting like a real community.

    • wow  

      you win prizes for sensitivity.

    • are you serious?

      Asians need to do what?

  19. who loves....  

    seeing sleeping security guards in the warm cars at night near riverside?

  20. most  

    most of the guys who work in public safety are the same type of people who commit the violence...

    • 'scuse me, #31?  

      Nothing like a crime near Columbia to bring out the wackos on Bwog.

      Yes, I know exactly what you were trying to say, and yes, I'm well aware that some may point to the (assumed) socioeconomic background of many of our public safety officials and quickly defend your comment as "uncomfortable but true". To the rest of us, your comment was not candor--it was glib, graceless, and counterproductive. The insinuations you make about the people who, for the most part, do their best to keep your campus safe are uncalled for here.

      • cupcake  

        do their best to keep this campus safe?! where are you living??! please, they could care less about keeping campus safe.

        • #34 (cupcake)  

          OK, so I realized as soon as I posted that that the praise was laid on a little thick there. I'm really just as cynical about public safety as any of you--it's unacceptable that these assaults happened at all, and I shudder to imagine how many other incidents could happen given that it's not uncommon to see public safety officers being less than vigilant.

          But the sentiment behind what I wrote still stands. I meant to say that, while it is perfectly acceptable for us to be outraged at public safety, a commenter crosses a line when he starts equating the people who are employed to keep us safe with the people who mean to do us harm. It's an incredibly irresponsible thing to imply and contributes nothing to the serious conversation we need to have about the state of our public safety department.

          • welcome

            to the internet. It's one of those places where every line that can be crossed, will be crossed.
            Also, security guards are the same everywhere. They're blue-collar bouncers. Security guards make Reno 911 look professional.

  21. ???  

    what the hell are those pictures?

  22. they  

    They were targeting Asians.

  23. Ugh

    Can't we just shoot these thugs...sick of living in this human cesspool.

  24. ...

    actually, maybe councils were trying to prepare for the blight and crime that is coming to NYC...

    training people through ROTC would create a could reserve of students to defend us from the city scum

  25. public

    It seems to me that many people at Public Safety have a particular disdain for the students. They walk around pretending like they're a precinct of the NYPD, even all but copying the NYPD motto save one word (they appropriately took out "respect"), despite the fact that most of the time, they're nothing but building traffic cops. I'm sure some of their efforts go under-appreciated, but, in any case, they need to improve their image.

  26. FYI  

    Each of the contact people on public safety's website have a feature where you can email them anonymously. I posted the link to this comments section to James McShane.

  27. Dirty Sanchez  

    Viva la gentrification!!!

  28. btw  

    Before this goes off on a tangent, can I ask that people who want to racialize this (whichever side of the argument you're on) please refrain from commenting. The core issue here is Public safety's incompetence in a) Not Preventing this and b) Not telling us about it.

    Don't divert from the issue, because what is an inherently fucked up (lack of) action on their part will go forgotten and unpunished.

  29. HRP

    This is why we need a close-gated campus.

    After that, can we please round them all up and throw em in the Bronx or something?

  30. make sure  

    to check out Spec's coverage of the attacks: http://www.columbiaspectator.com/node/56240

  31. In The Know

    Everyone here making these comments about Public Safety are dangerously misinformed and pointing fingers in the wrong direction.

    1) All of you complaining about the "War on Fun" and the recent numbers released in the Public Safety Annual Report regarding the increase of alcohol and drug related incidents need to get your facts straight. Public Safety is acting at the behest of the deans of the university. If you notice, when you get busted at an EC party by Public Safety, who takes your information? The GA and/or a Dean. Who do you meet with the next day? The Dean's Office. Who issues you warnings or disciplinary notices? Housing and/or the Dean's Office. Public Safety is merely responding to a noise complaint or other issue in the dorm. Do you really believe that anyone in the Public Safety Department cares that you're drinking? The past couple of years Public Safety has seen increased pressure from the Administration to be more strict about reporting incidents to their offices. In the past, Public Safety reported to the dorms, would break up a party and everyone leaves. Now they are forced to report all dorm incidents to the Dean's Office and alert the On-Duty GA and/or Dean who accompanies them. So if you're gonna point fingers, stop blaming Public Safety, they are merely carrying out the wishes of the Administration.

    2) For all of you who seem to dislike James McShane and believe everyone in Public Safety is a thug. He is a great guy and an outstanding Public Safety Official. He is a retired Deputy Chief from NYPD, one of the highest ranks. He holds a JD and a Masters from Harvard. He was awarded a Fulbright Grant as a lecturer in Finland. Mr. McShane takes his responsibilities remarkably seriously and cares about the students at Columbia. His daughter used to be a student until recently, you better believe that if not as a member of Public Safety, then certainly as a father he would place a premium on the safety of campus.

    3) Regarding this post and everyone's belief that Public Safety let this incident happen. As you all may know, our campus is situated in New York City, and more specifically, next to Harlem. Now all racist arguments aside, the crime rate in Harlem is higher than other places in the city so, completely objectively, that puts our campus in a unique situation. Our community philosophy is to maintain an open campus and welcome in our neighbors. If we are going to embrace that philosophy we also need to understand the risks that go along with it. There was a gang of teenage kids that came onto campus and over the course of 50 minutes and in multiple places assaulted some students. Do you realize that Public Safety cannot respond to events if they don't know about them? They cannot react to any assault until one of the affected students reports the incident to them. A response is made to the location of the assault, but alas the group has moved on. Another assault happens and its reported, but when again, the group moves on. 5 locations in approx. 50 minutes. That's 10 minutes or less in any given place. And in fact, Public Safety did arrest one of the assailants that night. What you should realize is that the Department has a remarkably large network of cameras that caught everyone on tape. And despite all the young kids running off and disappearing into God knows where in Harlem, Public Safety in conjunction with NYPD will have all of the kids in probably a week.
    Do you really believe that the members of the Department of Public Safety, many of them veteran NYPD officers of more than 20 yrs, don't care about your safety and just let incidents like this happen. Step out of your sheltered life, and look into the real world. Things like this happen, you cannot prevent 100% of all dangers. No one was seriously injured, no one was killed. The assailants will be caught within a week or so.

    If you want a greater security presence on campus. Ask the Administration to give the Dept of Public Safety a greater budget. Don't think for a minute that Public Safety wouldn't hesitate to put a security guard on every corner of campus. It would make their job easier. NOTHING would happen and everyone would be happy. But there simply isn't a budget for it. Columbia University is consistently give an "A" rating in their safety protocols by outside surveys and is largely considered to be one of the safest urban universities in the country.

    So don't go making off the cuff comments about Public Safety somehow condoning assaults on students. It makes you sound uninformed and ignorant.

  32. adf  

    black people targeting asian students. what if it was the other way around, now that would cause an uproar

  33. saty

    The fundamental reason for this kind of problem is that children were born into single mothers who don't have money to take care of them. They grow without the supervision of a man in the home and take their anger and frustration towards other physically weaker people. These Black race has high bone mass ratio at younger age compared to any other race. Physically they become bigger compared to the same age group and don't have enough money feed their hunger.

    We need a forced family planning for these poor women who deliver babies after fucking around without any sense.

    • ...  

      troll: fail. grammar: fail. go back to freep.

    • actually  

      what we need is better education. that way people could actually break out of the cycles of poverty so they wouldn't have to resort to crime to just to maintain a minimal standard of living.

      and that way idiots like you wouldn't blame poverty on genetics. and please link the medical journal from which you established this notion that the black race has a higher bone mass ratio.

      poverty strikes every race. people from every race commit crimes. look at the south-- everyone is poor, not just blacks. so take your racist, eugenics-praising statements elsewhere.

  34. chill  

    in the know is the only one in this thread who has half a fucking brain

    whoever you are, stay away from these bozos, they'll drive you nuts

  35. Just saying...  

    Native Americans are actually the poorest group in the United States, and they don't go around picking on asians

  36. anonymous  

    When it comes down to it, we as individuals are ultimately responsible for our own safety. Public Safety can only be blamed for sending out the message to students four days too late. But the nature of police organizations is to investigate crimes once they've been committed, and Public Safety (along with the NYPD) seem to be doing a good job of that.

    I really wish, however, that more information was provided. Were the victims all male, or were females assaulted as well? Were they graduate students who live in UAH buildings? How many of them were actually wearing ipods or talking on their cell phones, as Marjorie Cohen seems to suggest?

    So now we have to ask ourselves: how could incidents like Saturday night's be avoided? The fact is, no matter how cautious you are, there will probably come a time when you find yourself walking alone or in a small group late at night, whether you're coming back from the library or a restaurant. And there's only one way to defend yourself against a group of attackers who aren't even after your money but who just want to beat you up. But, unfortunately, CCW permits are impossible to get in NYC.

    The right to self defense is a human right.

  37. what...

    your response to the assault on Saturday is to carry concealed weapons and shoot people?

    • anonymous  

      Yes, I believe individuals should be able to defend themselves in the event of an attack. There's a difference between "shooting people" and protecting yourself against an assailant.

      If you don't see things that way, then, by all means, keep electing anti-gun politicians and enjoy your hospital stay (or funeral) the next time you're attacked. It's better to be a victim anyway, right?

      • Yeah  

        that way you won't go to the hospital next time you're attacked. You'll go straight to the morgue.

        There are great reasons to relax gun control but this is definitely not one of them.

  38. alumnus  

    Why does everyone refer to these assaults happening "on campus"

    Broadway is not on campus. Amsterdam Avenue is not on campus. These are criminal acts taking place on city streets.

  39. dubya  

    If you pay attention to the moons, you'll notice a lot of Columbia-area violence around the solstices and equinoxes. I don't mean that some magical shit is happening--it's just that there are seasonal gang recruitments, etc. I, for example, had my jaw broken in Riverside Park (during the day), right around the vernal equinox. (Most of the others attacked by the groups of 5-20 boys were Asian that time.)

    Also, we've got that economic and literal fault line thing going on (Morningside Park). Security can't do a thing about it, and the economy is getting worse. Take a taxi and mace.

  40. Anonymous  

    I don't really like police all over the place, but it would be nice to have a few real police around campus, especially during peak crime times. I mean, maybe the murders are over now that Radio Perfecto's thug night is in the past . . . But a lot of other universities have real police forces--and not just state universities. Northwestern, for example. http://www.northwestern.edu/up/about/authority.html Something tells me officers paid $50k+ a year will do a better job protecting us than Securitas guards making $9 an hour. And it's not just because my wife couldn't have gotten through Barnard without buying pot from the security guard in her building.

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