ECPD urges vigilance in Common

by Beacon Staff • April 29, 2009

On Tuesday, April 28, Emerson Police Chief George Noonan sent an e-mail to all students outlining an incident involving an Emerson student's safety that took place on Monday, April 27.

At approximately 11 p.m., a female student reported being followed by a man described in the e-mail as a white, stocky man, approximately 35 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall. He wore a white hooded sweatshirt with light blue shirt and jeans, according to Noonan's e-mail.

The student was walking on Boston Common near the State House when she realized the man following her. She noticed a security guard standing in a parking garage kiosk nearby who escorted her to the Piano Row residence hall, where a male Emerson student met her. However, the man then approached the two from Boston Common, told them he was a police officer, and asked to see their identification. According to the report, the suspect then struck the male student in the chest and then ran away.

The student was not seriously hurt, bu Noonan said in a phone interview that he can only guess what the suspect's mental state was at the time. The Emerson College Police Department has reviewed security tapes in an attempt to identify the suspect, he said, but was unable to because he never stepped into full view of the camera. While he believes the suspect had more serious intentions, it's unclear which laws were broken since the suspect had no weapon.

Some Emerson students questioned seemed nonchalant about the episode, despite the fact that the suspect is still at large.

"I walk in the Common after dark all the time with only one other person," said Kristin Power, a freshman film major. "It hasn't been bad, I just look out for suspicious behavior. I'm cautious, but I'm not concerned."

Noonan said there have been very few similar incidents on the Emerson campus and surrounding area. In his two years as police chief, he said he has never heard of an incident that came so close to being a crime.

"It has a lot to do with the surrounding geographical area. An important point is that Emerson is in a very vibrant area; there are a lot of bars around, which might not sound good, but bars can actually make a place safer since there are so many people around," he said. "Safety in numbers is a pretty good rule to go by."

Still, Noonan said precautions should still be taken to help prevent similar incidents in the future.

"It's never a good idea to take a shortcut after dark. Generally, there's no one but you walking that block," he said. "I think most students will be more careful now, though. That e-mail made a world of difference."