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Buff State prohibits visitors in residence halls in wake of violent incidents

No visitors will be allowed inside the 11 residence halls on the Elmwood Avenue campus of SUNY Buffalo State in the wake of three separate incidents involving the assault or attempted assault of resident students in their dorms, college president Katherine Conway-Turner announced.

“Our (residence) halls are locked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Outside entry is gained only by a college-issued key fob,” said the college president in a blog entitled, “A Message on Campus Safety.” “Residence Life will increase staffing to ensure that only residents of each building are gaining access to the residence halls.”

On campus, students familiar with the dormitory procedures said people “sneaking into dorms” is not an uncommon practice at Buffalo State – and at other area colleges.

“People are sneaking into the dorms through side doors,” said David DeLuca, 21, executive editor of the student newspaper The Record. “Sometimes it is harmless. You’re bringing in a friend from off-campus. It happens with girlfriends and boyfriends sneaking each other in. But now it’s different.”

The difference is measured in three violent crimes – committed with a semiautomatic handgun, a box cutter and a knife – against students in stairwells, dorm rooms and in one case just outside a residence hall. The crimes were committed on Aug. 28, Sept. 8 and on Sunday, when one student walking the stairs in Tower 3 with three other students was robbed at gunpoint of a cellphone and cash.

University Police Chief Peter M. Carey called them “crimes of opportunity” and increased foot patrols in each of the residence halls. In addition, dormitory staff will be holding floor meetings with resident students this week to review building security procedures and safety practices.

The attempted sexual assault of a young woman early on Aug. 28 in Porter Hall, a freshman dormitory, occurred while she was sleeping in her room. University police arrested a 17-year-old student who also lived in the same dormitory shortly after the incident.

“Something had to be done,” DeLuca said. “You had three serious crimes in the first three weeks of school. One was during orientation week, and police have not determined how entry into her room was made.”

In the second incident on Sept. 8, a call to the confidential tip line led to an arrest. Police said Mohamed Kaba, 22, of Yonkers slashed a fellow student on his arms, back and torso “numerous” times during the early morning altercation outside Student Apartment Complex. A security camera in the lobby of the residence hall captured an image of Kaba minutes before the altercation.

DeLuca, a junior, said many students believe there should be more surveillance cameras that would allow for tracking throughout the 125-acre campus.

“Other colleges have a more extensive surveillance system with more security cameras,” said the college newspaper editor who lives off-campus.

Freshman Megan Hanrahan, 18, lives in Perry Hall.

“I don’t feel as safe as I did when I first got here,” she said Tuesday night. “I’m a little more cautious in holding the residence hall door open because you don’t know if they’re a student or not.”

Under the new no-visitor policy, students are required to show the identification each time they enter the residence hall, even if they step outside for a few minutes. The restriction, which became effective Monday night, is OK with most students – for now.

Conway-Turner called the crimes “unfortunate acts of violence” and said she was “upset and concerned.”

She urged students who feel unsafe to call university police at 878-6333, use one of the 43 blue-light phones on campus or request a campus escort.

“University police at SUNY Buffalo State are working closely with the Buffalo Police Department to investigate leads,” Conway-Turner said. “Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to call police or the Confidential Tip Line at 878-3166.

Additional safety tips can be found online at police.buffalostate.edu/safetymeasures.

email: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com