TUPD investigates assault in Wren Hall, increases security measures

A TUPD officer patrols Wren Hall on the night of Apr. 14, following an assault incident that occurred in the dorm earlier this month. Max Lalanne / The Tufts Daily

Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) is currently investigating an assault incident that occurred earlier this month in Wren Hall, where a resident awoke early in the morning to find an unknown man rubbing her arm. Following this incident, TUPD has increased patrols at the residence hall and installed security cameras around the perimeter of Wren, and the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife) has begun a guest sign-in program within the dorm.

According to an April 2 email addressed to the Tufts community, the Wren resident found a man in her room at approximately 3:55 a.m. that morning, and TUPD subsequently searched the surrounding area. The email described the suspect as a white or Hispanic male between 5’8’’ and 6’ with black hair, and he was wearing a dark shirt.

TUPD, Residential Life, [Office of Equal Opportunity] and the Dean of Student Affairs have been working collaboratively and have taken significant steps to enhance the safety and security of Wren Hall residents, making appropriate support services available to those impacted,” Director of Public Safety Kevin Maguire told the Daily in an email.

Maguire declined to comment further on the incident in Wren Hall, or other recently reported incidents, such as the Feb. 26 sexual assault and two incidents in Miller Hall that also occurred that weekend, since these cases are all under investigation.

On the Monday evening following the assault, two meetings were held by TUPD and ResLife representatives, including Director of ResLife Yolanda King, during which residents were informed of what had happened over the weekend, as well as what ResLife and TUPD would be doing in response and how students could stay safe and report any suspicious activity.

At the meeting, officers Mark Keith and Leon Romprey told the Daily that the incident has now been categorized as an assault.

Maguire said that TUPD is working with the Middlesex District Attorney’s office and is “aggressively investigating all leads.”

“If appropriate, TUPD will collaborate with other law enforcement agencies in order to bring this investigation to a successful conclusion,” he said.

According to Maguire, the university has taken a number of steps to ensure students’ safety for the future. TUPD has stationed an officer at Wren Hall during late night hours to conduct targeted patrols, and other officers are patrolling at varied intervals, Maguire said.

At residence halls aside from Wren Hall, staff have also coordinated joint RA and TUPD officer walk-throughs as a part of the liaison ResCop Program, which is intended to help address quality of life issues in residence halls. In addition, TUPD has held meetings with residents on how to take self-protective action.

In an April 7 email to Wren residents, the dorm’s Area Residence Director (ARD) Mohamed Barakat wrote that TUPD would install video cameras before the end of the day on April 8.

“The contractors will be in the building beginning at 8:00 a.m. however they will be escorted by Tufts Police,” Barakat wrote in the email.

According to Maguire, the university’s plans to install video security cameras at public entrance and exit ways around the perimeter of Wren Hall were part of the Video Security on Campus project, which began in spring 2012 and installations were planned to continue this spring.

Wren resident Kinsey Drake said she felt that TUPD was swift in their implementation of the cameras following the weekend incident.

“I think the video cameras were put in really quickly, and [TUPD officers] were pretty transparent about when they would go up,” Drake, a sophomore, said. “They said if they weren’t going up according to schedule, they would send an email out, but they didn’t have to, and that was pretty cool.”

When asked about TUPD’s decision to not install cameras within Wren, Maguire answered that camera installations in residence halls are “strictly controlled by policy and [are] installed in areas where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.”

These restricted areas, according to the policy lines listed on the DPES website, include the interiors of restrooms and residence hall rooms, though cameras may be placed in view of the entrance and exit pathways of these locations.

Drake said she felt TUPD responded adequately and efficiently to the incident after it was reported.

“I felt that on the actual night of [the incident], [TUPD and ResLife] responded really well,” Drake said. “TUPD knocked on our doors and asked if there was anyone in our room. We talked to them and they were really informative and they weren’t threatening in any way. They were really good to have. They responded pretty quickly.”

Maguire explained that the installation of cameras on the perimeter of Wren was not meant to imply any information regarding next steps in TUPD’s investigation.

Beginning last Thursday, the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife) also began a guest sign-in program at Wren Hall. According to ResLife Assistant Director Carrie Ales-Rich and an email sent to some graduate students, ResLife hired graduate students to be stationed in the front lobby between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for the rest of the semester. These staff members are checking entering students’ IDs and will ask Tufts and non-Tufts guests to sign in.

Ales-Rich added that Barakat will carry out rounds in the residence hall to supplement those already being conducted by RAs.

Drake said she found the meeting to be mostly effective, particularly in interacting with TUPD.

“I thought [the meeting] worked really well,” Drake said. “TUPD had a good sense of what was going on. I don’t think they were super-transparent about the events that were going on beforehand [in Wren over the semester] but I think they were really clear about what had happened Saturday morning.”

However, Drake was disappointed with ResLife’s treatment of the event during the meeting. She felt that ResLife’s presentation to the residents portrayed the issue too broadly.

“I thought that the presentation by ResLife was a little lacking…” Drake said. “They were speaking more broadly in terms of guest registration and things like that, which I think is an important aspect of safety for monitoring dorms, but I would be reluctant to say that registering a guest is going to solve this problem.”

However, Drake said that both TUPD and ResLife are respecting the situation and listening to Wren students’ concerns.

“I think we are [being listened to],” she said. “The TUPD has been good at that. ResLife has been moderately good about that.”

Maguire said victims and survivors of crimes are not at fault, but he also urged students to take steps to protect themselves by not allowing non-residents to “tailgate” behind them in the halls and by keeping doors secured when they are sleeping or absent from the room. He also urged students to remain aware when traveling through residence halls and to call TUPD if they see a non-resident inside the building or trying to gain access into the building without a host. He recommended that students keep the Tufts police number in their phones so that they will be prepared to call TUPD in an emergency.

“We encourage students to lock their individual room doors when they are sleeping or away from their room,” Ales-Rich said. “We also encourage students to contact Tufts Police if they see a suspicious person in the building who appears not to belong.”

Ales-Rich also discouraged Wren residents from allowing strangers who do not live in Wren through the hall’s front door, an action commonly referred to as “piggy-backing.”

In an email sent to Wren Hall residents on April 6, Ales-Rich explained that those who do not cooperate with these procedures will be sent to the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs.

“At this time we are asking for everyone’s understanding in this matter and full cooperation as this new staffing structure is implemented,” she wrote. “We also understand that it will take some time to get used to.”

Correction: The print version of this story mistakenly identified one of the TUPD officers who told the Daily that the April Wren incident was an assault as Sgt. Joseph Tilton, but the officer was actually Leon Romprey. The Daily regrets this error.


COPYRIGHT 2021 THE TUFTS DAILY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.