News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 10, 2013

ISU ramps up security after recent events

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A recent attack on one Indiana State University male student and an attempted abduction of another north of campus are prompting university police to step up patrols — and to ask for assistance from other police agencies.

The incidents happened late at night about one week apart — the attempted abduction on Aug. 30 in the area of Eight and Elm streets, and the attack of another student early Friday morning at 61⁄2 and Elm streets.

The male who was the victim of the attempted abduction did not report the incident until Sept. 5.

ISU police do not believe the two incidents are related; descriptions of cars and suspects are different.

Police also are asking students or anyone with information to report any suspicious activity to ISU police at 812-237-5555.

ISU police chief Bill Mercier said Monday that “we have put extra patrols in that area and also requested the assistance of Indiana State Police and Terre Haute Police. They have told us they would give the area extra attention.”

For the foreseeable future, ISU will have an additional officer patrolling the area in late evening hours, he said. “We want to be visible. … We will be looking for anything suspicious.”

In the Aug. 30 incident, a male student reported to ISU Police that at about 3 a.m. that Friday, he was approached by an unknown man while he was walking in the area of Eighth and Elm streets. The student said the man asked him if he wanted a ride home. The student accepted the ride but demanded to be let out of the car when he realized the driver was not taking him home. The driver refused and traveled east on Locust Street.

The student reported that, after struggling with the driver, he was able to exit the vehicle, an older white convertible, in the area of 25th and Locust streets.

The student received some scratches on his arm as a result of the struggle but was not otherwise injured. The driver of the vehicle is described as a white male, 25 to 30 years old, about 5-feet, 11-inches tall and weighing 180 pounds, with brown hair and a beard.

Last Friday, another male student reported that at about 2:30 a.m., he was walking in the area of 61⁄2 and Elm streets when he was approached by a black male driving a maroon vehicle who asked him if he needed a ride.

While stopping to speak with this person, the victim was jumped from behind by another individual, described only as a black male. After a struggle, the suspect fled in an unknown direction.

The incident “may have been a robbery attempt,” Mercier said.

Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in either incident, he said.

Mercier advises students not to walk alone, especially at night, and to let someone know where they are going and when they will be back.

Students should not accept rides from people they don’t know, and they should be cautious about talking to someone they don’t know or if they are approached by someone they don’t know, he said.

He also noted that someone who has been drinking alcohol can become an “easy target” for those with criminal intent.

In one of the situations, a person had been drinking but was not intoxicated, Mercier said.

He also advised that walking intentionally, with purpose, can also be a deterrent.  “People are less likely to be victimized when they walk like that,” Mercier said.

The two incidents last week were sent out as RAVE alerts and went to students as text alerts. “We try to limit RAVE alerts to serious incidents,” he said.

About two weeks ago, some other suspicious incidents occurred near campus in the evening hours. In one, near Sixth and Tippecanoe, someone in a red van approached a female student and asked if she wanted a ride; the student said no, and nothing more happened.

In another incident, near the Imperial Lanes parking lot along Third Street, an older, white male driving a light-colored sedan asked two separate women if they wanted a ride; again, the students ignored the driver and nothing more happened.

In those instances, ISU students were notified by email, rather than the RAVE emergency text messaging system. “We did things sufficient to put students on notice that they needed to be careful and they shouldn’t take rides from people they don’t know,” Mercier said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.