Two assaults direct students’ attention to Campus Safety’s procedures, escort service availability

Campus Safety car parked in front of Emmons Wellness Center at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 14, 2021. Anna Braz/The Occidental

Since the return of students to Occidental’s campus, Campus Safety has reported two assaults in the area surrounding campus, according to their crime log. As a result, Campus Safety started patrolling the surrounding area more frequently and has requested the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to increase patrols in the area until suspects in the incidents have been apprehended, according to Director of Campus Safety Rick Tanksley.

The first assault occurred around 4:10 p.m. Sept. 4 in the area of Alumni Avenue and Avenue 46. The second incident, an assault/battery case, occurred around 5 p.m. Sept. 8 on Avenue 46, according to a campus-wide email sent by Tanksley.

“Whenever a significant incident occurs on campus or in the immediate area surrounding campus, my staff makes me aware of it immediately, 24/7,” Tanksley said via email.

Pacita Del Balso* (junior) said she has been concerned about her safety before while walking off campus. During the summer, while Del Balso lived on campus, she was followed by an unfamiliar man who she thinks matched the description of the other two subsequent reported assaults and could have been the same person.

“I see this random guy on the street and he’s kind of behaving a little strangely,” Del Balso said. “I cross the street and then I walk two more blocks and I see him keeping pace with me but trying to look like he’s not. So, I make it into the CVS [on York Boulevard], and first I’m walking to the pharmacy, but then I turn back to grab something else and I see that he has followed me in.”

Del Balso said she did not call Campus Safety because she was not sure what services they would have provided her with, since the man did not make any direct threats against her.

“I didn’t [call Campus Safety] because I wasn’t threatened with any physical violence and at the time I think I convinced myself it wasn’t as big of a deal as it was,” Del Balso said. “So I never did, but I kind of regret not doing it now. And I do wonder how many other instances there have been with this person.”

Del Balso said she considered calling Campus Safety for an escort, but was not sure if escorts were being offered at the time.

During the height of the pandemic, Campus Safety suspended escorts due to health and safety concerns and the reduced number of students on campus, according to Tanksley. Campus Safety has since reinstated the escort service since students have returned to campus. Tanksley said that fewer people have requested Campus Safety escorts this semester, but they are still being offered.

“Please contact Campus Safety, tell us that you don’t feel safe walking at night alone and we will provide you with an escort,” Tanksley said via email.

According to Tanksley, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 15, 2019, Campus Safety provided 115 safety escorts. Tanksley said this year, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 15, 2021, Campus Safety only provided 37 escorts.

Tanksley said he recommends that students prioritize walking in well-lit areas at night and downloading the LiveSafe App. Through the LiveSafe App, students can send tips and live chat with Campus Safety officials. In addition, they can use the app to access emergency phone numbers that initiate location tracking when called and use a peer-to-peer tool called SafeWalk that allows friends to monitor each others’ locations. Additionally, Tanksley said students should make sure they have Campus Safety’s phone number saved in their phones.

According to Tanksley, in the event of an incident on or near campus, Campus Safety sends out two types of campus-wide emails depending on how it is classified: Timely Warnings and Safety Alerts. Tanksley said Timely Warnings are sent when an incident on or nearby campus involves a crime listed in the Clery Act and is determined to be a serious or continuing threat to the Occidental community. A Safety Alert is sent out when Campus Safety feels the community should be aware of an incident that is not covered by the Clery Act or doesn’t pose a serious or continuing threat, according to Tanksley.

In the event of an urgent emergency, Campus Safety sends out an immediate notification via OxyAlert, Tanksley said.

According to Del Balso and Kyle Dosa (senior), some students are still unsure of what services Campus Safety currently offers for students living both on and off-campus. Dosa, who lives off-campus near where the incidents occurred on Avenue 46, said he is unclear where Campus Safety patrols and how much of the neighborhood is within their patrol route.

Tanksley said he is working with Marketing and Communications to enhance the Campus Safety website and increase communication with students.

“The Campus Safety webpage will include an online feedback form where students and staff can share suggestions, concerns and compliments related to our service,” Tanksley said via email.

Campus Safety phone number: (323) 259-2559

*Pacita Del Balso is a former writer for The Occidental