Gannon promotes safety on campus


Second of a two-part series
Within the past two weeks, there have been four reported robberies across Gannon University’s campus and the motive behind the attacks are cellphones and sometimes cash.
The most recent armed robbery took place around 7 p.m. Monday in the 400 block of West Seventh Street. A female Gannon student was robbed of her cellphone and was not injured. Gannon Police and Safety and the Erie Police Department arrived on the scene within minutes of the incident.
The first robbery occurred on the 200 block of West Eighth Street around 5:30 a.m. Nov. 4 when an Erie woman walking to work was approached from behind with a gun and had her purse stolen.
In a two-hour time span, near the Kenilworth apartments of Chestnut and West Sixth streets, a male Gannon international student had a gun pointed at his abdomen and the assailant stole his cellphone.
Two days later, a female international student was robbed again in the 200 block of West Eighth Street. The robber pointed a gun at the student demanding her cellphone, but a Gannon police officer interrupted the robbery.
Maureen Piccirilli, a senior early childhood and special education major, said she is concerned with the proximity and time of the robberies. One happened on her street, she said.
“It’s even more concerning to me, though, that they [robberies] are happening during the day,” Piccirilli said. “Before I just made sure I never walked alone at night, but now I feel I need someone with me always.
“I really wish this was something we didn’t have to deal with.”
Katie Allison, Gannon’s coordinator of Violence Prevention, said students need to be more aware, follow the safety tips sent out and take advantage of the services offered on campus.
She said to not travel alone, walk in well-lit areas, stay off cellphones and call the Gannon University Escort Service Team (G.U.E.S.T) if there is no one to walk home with. Allison said there has been an increase in the use of G.U.E.S.T, which she said is great.
“We are urging the students to not have their cellphones visible, do not carry passports or large amounts of cash and to be aware of their surroundings,” Allison said. “We want the students and the Gannon community to be as safe as possible.”
The university releases timely warnings to the Gannon community when incidents occur that are considered an imminent danger. In light of recent events, Gannon has been releasing Safety Alerts via email to the students, faculty and staff updating them on the latest robbery and also providing safety tips.
In addition to providing information and safety tips to the Gannon community during a timely warning, Allison said there has been a focus on sexual violence prevention on campus.
Last week was dedicated to promoting the #ItsOnUs campaign to urge students to be more than just a bystander and to try and stop sexual assault in any way they can.
Allison said Gannon’s It’s On Us Week of Action coincided with the It’s On Us National Week of Action. She said it was an effort to engage more of the student body and to promote social responsibility and encourage conversations that promote health, safety and overall sexual well-being.
It was a committee of students, faculty and staff that worked together to make the action week possible.
Students, faculty and staff were provided with a list of tips to help become a better bystander or friend to prevent sexual assault from happening when drugs or alcohol are involved, or anytime for that matter, Allison said.
Some of the steps provided were to speak up if someone makes a comment that is derogatory or abusive, distract someone who is harassing a classmate by asking him/her a question or knocking something over or choose not to participate in hazing and speaking out against destructive behaviors.
PowerPoint slides with “#ItsOnUs because…” comments and pictures, rotated on the televisions in the Waldron Campus Center, Zurn Science Center and the Recreation and Wellness Center during the week of action.
Students with any questions, or who are interested in learning more about taking the pledge can contact Allison at [email protected]
Allison said students are encouraged to stand up and be more than just a bystander – in more than just sexual assault scenarios. She said students who have any information on the robbery suspect, an African-American male in his 20s riding a yellow bicycle, should contact Gannon Police and Safety.
As a reminder to students, Allison said to be aware of the resources available when students are around campus. The radius for Gannon police to escort students after the 11 p.m. cut off of the G.U.E.S.T services Sunday through Thursday, is State Street to Chestnut Street and Third Street to 12th Street.
While within that radius, Gannon police are on duty 24 hours a day and students may call and request an escort service after G.U.E.S.T hours. Requesting G.U.E.S.T assistance can be done by calling the Gannon switchboard at 814-871-7260.
Marisa Guyton, a senior advertising communication major, said the blame cannot be put on Gannon.
“It’s not Gannon that is unsafe,” Guyton said. “It’s Erie. Gannon is doing what it can by constantly reminding us on how to be safe on and off campus, but students aren’t following them. Students need to get off their phones while walking home because that is what he [the robber] is targeting – remove the target.
“Gannon is safe, but it’s when Erie criminals cause harm that it begins to seem as though Gannon is unsafe. There is a difference.”


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