The intersection at West Fifth and Sassafras streets has been the scene of two separate robberies within the last three weeks, the first occurring Nov. 20, and the most recent occurring Monday.
As a result, Gannon University officials released a Gannon community wide email alert that described each robbery and gave a profile of each of the assailants believed to be responsible for the crimes.
In addition to this information, the email also provided safety tips and contact information for campus emergency, campus police and G.U.E.S.T. services.
In the first robbery, a white male in his 20s approached the victim around 6 p.m. and demanded the student’s wallet. In the second robbery, a black male wearing a black mask and hoodie approached and demanded the victim’s wallet around 1:30 a.m.
In both cases, the suspects fled on foot and have yet to be identified.
However, according to Les Fetterman, the assistant director of Campus Police and Safety, authorities have obtained some camera footage and the Erie Police Department is pursuing a few leads.
Fetterman also said that they typically encounter a handful of these types of robberies every year and they almost always involve students living off campus.
The good news is that there is no evidence to suggest that there has been an increase in crime from years prior, so it has just been business as usual for Gannon Police.
Although a few robberies are considered to be commonplace during a typical Gannon school year, this recent spell of attacks has left more than a few students concerned for their safety.
Alec Battaglia, a junior entrepreneurship major, has lived on campus every year that he has been at Gannon. As a junior, he has interest in living off campus next year, but it will all depend on where he feels the safest.
“Gannon housing is definitely the safest spot on campus,” Battaglia said. “But I live in Harborview and I still feel unsafe sometimes.
“I park at Freeman, and at night when I’m walking back to my apartment alone I definitely feel a little nervous at times.”
Junior sport management and marketing major Zak Tomblin is an Erie native and has never lived on campus. This year, however, he moved from home to a house on Eighth Street with some other Gannon students and he hasn’t had a problem yet.
“In my neighborhood, I feel like as long as you don’t mess with anyone, they won’t mess with you,” Tomblin said. “I always have my doors and windows locked, and I keep to myself.
“I feel perfectly safe in downtown Erie.”
As an underclassman and a female Emma Sciullo, a sophomore nutrition major, said she feels an undeniable sense of vulnerability when walking alone on campus.
Sciullo lives in North Hall, which is located less than a block away from where the robberies took place, and according to her experiences, a lot of people living in this residence hall are on edge and afraid to walk home alone at night.
“A lot of people won’t leave Palumbo or Waldron at night to walk home unless they’re with someone else,” Sciullo said. “I know people who will wait for their friends to finish class just so they have someone to walk with.”
She said that she and her friends walk everywhere in groups in an attempt to be as safe as possible.
Regardless of how individual students feel about their safety on campus, the threats have proven themselves to be authentic and certain precautions should be taken in order to avoid becoming the victim of a crime.
Gannon Police and Safety suggest some useful precautions, including preventive measures such as being aware of your surroundings and becoming familiar with the campus, avoiding distractions like cell phones, riding the Knight Rider shuttle bus, being aware of locations for emergency call boxes, staying in well-lit areas and avoiding walking alone at night whenever possible.
G.U.E.S.T. services is an amenity that Fetterman feels is greatly underutilized by students, but it is free for all students and they will provide you with someone to walk home with at night. They can be reached by phone at 814-871-7690.
Any campus emergencies, however, should be directed to 814-871-7777.