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Cornell University reminds students of campus-wide safety efforts in light of recent incidents

One woman told police she was raped, two others say they were grabbed by a man overnight in Ithaca. The reports triggered a campus-wide alert at Cornell University.
Ithaca (WSYR-TV) -- One woman told police she was raped, two others say they were grabbed by a man overnight in Ithaca. The reports triggered a campus-wide alert at Cornell University.

It’s not clear whether the cases are connected, but one woman described her attacker as a college-age, Hispanic man, about 5’9” tall, with an average build, dark hair and a mole on his cheek. He was wearing a white, long-sleeved, button-down shirt and plaid shorts.

As a result, campus police are adding patrols, reminding students to be aware of blue lights on campus that connect to emergency phones and officers are asking students to avoid walking alone in the dark. The university offers a free escort service overnight from 6:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Students can connect through the Blue Light phones or by calling 607-255-7373.

Two weeks after arriving at Cornell University, Freshman Kate Sorensen awoke to a campus-wide crime alert. After the rape was reported, the university activated the system, sending e-mails to all students and staff. Text alerts are optional.

"Any girl is going to feel a sense of empathy. I mean it’s horrifying to hear about an incident such as that,” Sorensen told NewsChannel 9.

The first report involved a woman who told police she was grabbed from behind in a campus parking lot around 2:00 a.m. on Sunday. The man was frightened away as the woman fought back and nearby students intervened.

At 3:15 a.m. on College Avenue, a man reportedly knocked on a door and requested to speak to someone who didn't live there. A woman at the residence, who answered the door, said she wasn't familiar with that person and tried to close the door. But, the man reportedly forced his way inside and reached under her dress until the woman pushed him out of the home. The victim called police around 8:05 a.m., after seeing a campus alert about a third incident.

At 3:45 a.m., another woman says she was approached along a wooded path on the edge of campus. She describes a similar man, who grabbed her from behind and raped her, triggering the campus-wide alert.

"We've had very detailed descriptions, which is very helpful and they came in a timely manner. Typically, the quicker we get the information, the better it is, so we were able to act on that and we have followed up on some leads,” said Sgt. AJ Tostanoski, with Cornell University Police.

The news was a wake-up call to one junior, who admits she had a false sense of security.

"I usually have no qualms about walking around campus at night or just walking around alone and this was really a bit of a shock for me, especially since it was so close,” junior Nicole Bardabelias said.

For Sorensen, the warning came with crucial information about the emergency phones near blue lights on campus and the free escort service offered to students overnight.

“We're all a little bit more cognizant of the situations that can occur, unfortunately, but I think we're a bit better prepared now,” Sorensen said.

Anyone with information about the cases can call Cornell University Police at 607-255-1111.

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