Shippensburg’s Assault Problem
Shippensburg’s Assault Problem
Sarah woke up to her roommate yelling and the front door of her Shippensburg apartment slamming shut. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes she stumbled into her living room and was shocked by what she saw. The wall by her bedroom had been carved with capital letters nearly a foot-tall spelling “CASE.” Her upset roommate pointed Sarah towards the kitchen table where the same message was carved along with many others, combining to make part of the table look like it carried a skeleton of scratchy words and drawings. Sarah tried to stay calm. She wanted to look up the Shippensburg Borough Police number. The SU Sophomore went to retrieve her laptop, but it was gone, stolen from her room while she slept.
The night before, Sarah and some of her friends had gone out. They ran into a group of four guys at a party and after talking for a while it seemed they shared some close mutual friends. “I was like they know my really good friends. There is no way these guys would do me harm,” said Sarah.
These men were visiting Shippensburg University and all lived in Chambersburg, a city 15 minutes from the school. At the end of the night, saying they were too drunk to drive home they asked if they could sleep at Sarah’s place. She let them stay on her living room floor. “I was trying to be nice. That was definitely a mistake,” she said.
Shippensburg has never had much of a crime problem. According to CLR Search.com, a nationwide real estate site, Shippensburg’s crime rate is lower than the US average in every one of the site’s seven categories of crime. In four of these categories; rape, robbery, burglary and motor vehicle theft, the risk for crime in Shippensburg is at least two times lower than the national average. Assaults in the borough are historically uncommon as well, totaling a risk rate that is barely half the country’s percentage.
Now these rates are sure to rise after a crime spree in Shippensburg that has left the borough averaging one attempted assault a weekend since late March. In the early hours of March 25th a Shippensburg man was attacked by a group of three assailants and sustained injuries that resulted in a visit to Chambersburg Hospital.
SU Junior Kane Williams was walking alone by his apartment on High Street when the group of three men approached him. They asked Williams whether he knew of any parties. As Williams responded one of the men sucker-punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground. According to Williams the group of three then fled the scene. Less than 24 hours later, there was another assault, this time on Richard Avenue, a party street in Shippensburg. Pennsylvania State Police said that two people were injured.
Over the next three weeks no assaults were reported in the borough. Still, this was a time filled with turmoil for Shippensburg. While assaults are low in the area, they are not unheard of. Drunken fights are a staple of most college towns and Shippensburg is not an exception. This set of drunken fights was made different because of the way the university’s administration reacted to them. The school sent out a mass email and text alert warning students of the attacks hours after the incidents.
In an interview with Ship News Now, SU spokesman Peter Gigliotti explained the University’s rationale for the alert. “We felt in general because the (suspect) was not in custody we wanted to alert students. We warned them so if they were in that area to be careful and if they weren’t to stay away from it.”
What the administration failed to consider was the lingering effect this mass alert would have on the psyche of the University’s student-body. It was impossible to escape conversation about the assaults because every student knew about them. Local newspapers and TV stations began covering the story. What had started out as just a bad weekend for Shippensburg was transformed into this threat that had students looking over their shoulders every time they went out. “Thanks attackers, for I can’t even step outside of my house without being paranoid after hearing the wind rattle the trash. (Expletive) you, Shippensburg,” said Williams on Facebook the day after he was assaulted.
This microscope of attention started with the emergency alerts and left a void that could be filled by only one thing; more attacks.
There is evidence that the next string of crimes were committed by the same group of three to four individuals. While they were possibly involved in earlier crimes in the borough the first crimes that they can be directly traced to are theft and destruction of property during the early morning of April 15th. These are the men who stole Sarah’s laptop and used knives to carve words and symbols into her wall and kitchen table.
Unfortunately for Sarah and her roommates these men would come back less than a day after stealing her laptop. The night of the 15th the men arrived at Sarah’s apartment knocking on her door. They were looking for one of Sarah’s friends. Sarah’s roommate slammed the door in the men’s face.
According to people watching from a balcony above Sarah’s apartment the men then walked away from the complex and slashed the tires of a green Tahoe in the parking lot before jumping into a “black SUV-type” vehicle.
When a State Trooper arrived about a half hour later not only were the owners of the green Tahoe waiting for him, but so too were Sarah, her roommates and people who had witnessed the tires being slashed from the balcony. They all told their stories. The cop was shocked that Sarah had let these men into her apartment asking her “What the (expletive) is wrong with you?”
Less than 90 minutes later knives were pulled by a group of four to six men at a party in a different apartment complex in Shippensburg. A man at the party said that an argument started after the apartment’s tenants tried to kick a group of people out. Instead of leaving, the men started threatening the tenants and other people at the party with knives. The attackers left only after police were called. State Troopers said the men were African-American and drove a black Chevy Tahoe. Another SU emergency alert was issued.
Sarah gave the names and phone numbers of the people who stole her laptop, slashed the tires of a car and probably threatened an SU party at knifepoint to two state troopers. No arrests have been made in any of these cases.
Another attempted assault a week later underscored the point that Shippensburg does now have a problem. Police said that a large knife was used in this incident. Whether the man who wielded it is connected to the group that stole Sarah’s laptop is unclear.
Sunday, April 22, 2012 2:02 AM
SUALERT: Pennsylvania State Police report a large knife was used to threaten individuals on Richard Avenue early this morning. Suspect is described as a black male in all black clothing. Use caution and contact State Police at 249-2121 if you have further information that may help.
SUALERT: The local police is advising individuals to be on the lookout for two vehicles possibly involved with the attempted assault reported Saturday night in Shippensburg.
The vehicles descriptions are as follows:
* A black Chevy Tahoe
* A dark colored PT cruiser with wood green sides.
Anyone with any information regarding these vehicles or with the reported incident is encouraged to contact Pennsylvania State Police, Carlisle Barracks.
SUALERT: Police report attempted assault in area of 35 College Park involving a knife. Suspects are 4-6 African American males. Please be on alert and take appropriate caution.