Alpha Gamma Delta sisters called the Lehigh University Police Department twice about a shirtless, middle-aged man loitering outside their house. Officers failed to respond to the first call, and Chief Jason Schiffer apologized on behalf of the department. (Xinru Qin/B&W Staff)

LUPD apologizes for delayed response to report of suspicious behavior

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A shirtless, middle-aged man was seen loitering around the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house on Tuesday, Sept. 25.  

LUPD was called around 9 p.m., and then again before midnight, by several of the residents Tuesday night. 

Krisana Goel, ‘22, a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, was in the chapter house when the man was seen near the building.

“We were all just terrified,” Goel said. “Some of us were not even at our house and were too scared to come home from the library. We hid in our rooms and locked our windows and doors, which is very unusual at our house. We all felt very unsafe.”

After first spotting the man, a group of the women called LUPD, listening to the dispatcher on speaker. Instead of the usual protocol of sending an officer, the dispatcher said they “should go look outside to see if (the intruder) is still there.”

“I can’t send an officer if there is nothing out there,” the women recalled the dispatcher said.  

Goel said many of the women were shocked by the dispatcher’s response to the situation.

“We were very upset how we were treated, especially being a group of young women with a strange man hanging around our house,” she said. “It was all very discomforting.”

A second spotting of the man occurred around midnight when Margaux Petruska, ‘22, went outside to check if he was still present on the sorority’s property. She said she recalls seeing a figure lurking on the grounds and decided to call LUPD for the second time that night. 

Petruska said LUPD officers came up to the house to investigate the problem and they were helpful.

“There was definitely a communication problem between the dispatcher and the officers, which created a disconnect with the girls in the house,” she said. “The dispatcher told us that if we want to find out information, for us to go outside, which is crazy to me because we didn’t know if it was safe or not. A lot of the girls in the house were very upset and we made sure to tell Chief Schiffer that.”

Petruska said she stayed outside and spoke to the officers who responded to the call. However, the girls inside the house were still in a state of uncertainty regarding the safety of their surroundings. Officers were not relayed the information from the dispatcher that there were multiple calls coming from inside the Alpha Gamma Delta house. 

A few days following the incident, Schiffer went up to the sorority house to speak to all the sisters in order to address the communication issues. 

“Our protocol is that if anyone calls for assistance, we need to dispatch an officer to check out the situation, regardless of the severity sounding of the situation to make sure its safe,” Schiffer said. “We failed on that end. Our officers that were working at that time did not know of the situation because the dispatcher did not relay the information. That is a failure on our part. There is no other way to put that.”

Schiffer said LUPD has taken steps and made changes internally in order to ensure a similar situation will not happen again. 

He said the problem should not have occurred because a protocol exists for officers to respond when they are called. 

“It has been a very frustrating time over the past few weeks,” he said. “It should be the bare minimum for a police officer to show up.”

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