The state of Maine and college campuses everywhere have suffered a shock. The University of Maine was forced to deal with an attempted abduction just before classes resumed, and, most recently, Colby College in Waterville was devastated to learn one of its students was killed not far from campus. Because of these tragedies, UMaine Public Safety wants to inform students that many measures have been put into effect to ensure their safety.
The body of Dawn Rossignol, 21, a senior biology major at Colby, was discovered Wednesday one mile from campus. Edward J. Hackett, 47, has been arrested in connection to the incident and is expected to be charged with murder within the next few days.
Public Safety has taken action in light of the recent attacks.
“It is not in the campus’s best interest to keep details of the [Aug. 10] attack a secret,” said Public Safety Director Noel March. “This is why, following the assault, all local papers, radio stations and television networks were given details of the attempted abduction and a sketch of the suspect.”
All summer campus residents, such as athletes, student workers and staff, were informed of the Public Safety alert for their own protection, and to enable them to be eyes and ears for the campus, March said.
“Awareness and alertness help enhance the campus’s ability to stay safe,” March said. “Lots of attentive people equals great prevention.”
Following the Aug. 10 assault, campus police began working with state and local police to search for the suspect. They also informed surrounding towns, such as Orono and Old Town, of the incident, posting more than 100 flyers with a sketch of the suspect. March said campus police “have shared all information about the attempted abduction and assault [with Waterville authorities] so that they can compare it to the happenings with Colby College.”
Although Public Safety has taken measures to ensure the safety of the student body, there are still precautions students can take to keep safe.
March said the best way to prevent being victimized is to be informed and aware. “University of Maine is a very safe place to live, work and learn, but in this day and age it’s best to recognize that even Maine can experience serious crimes,” March said.
Students should also walk in pairs and be constantly aware of their surroundings, March said. It is important that students feel comfortable reporting any suspicious person or activity they see, no matter how trivial it may seem, he said.
“A college is a target-rich environment for criminals: drug dealers looking for new people to sell to or thieves who wish to break into cars. The good guys have the bad guys outnumbered thousands of times to one. So if we are organized and educated, our chances of staying safe are excellent.”
March said he wants to remind students that at the beginning of each semester, residence halls provide “Personal Safety Education.” These short discussions provide safety tips to reduce the risk of harm, injury and trouble during the school year, he said. Deborah Mitchell, Amy Nickerson and Mark Coffey, who are all members of Public Safety, also offer Rape Aggression Defense courses throughout the year. The officers are all available for contact on FirstClass.