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Campus Police Educate Against New Scam Artist

By Eric Sit
STAFFREPORTER

Campus Police have released a "scam alert" warning the MIT community that a con artist has been approaching individuals in the area.

Two people affiliated with MIT, in addition to several Cambridge residents and Harvard University affiliates, have been victims of the scam.

According to the CPs, victims are approached by the scam artist and are told a sob story about a broken-down car or a sick child and an urgent need to get money.

The scam artist will give the victim a check and ask in return that the person obtain cash from an ATM. The check which is given to the victim is usually a stolen check. The suspect will usually insist that the victim get into a cab or a car driven by a female accomplice and is taken to locations as far away as Quincy to go to an ATM machine.

The most recent description of the suspect is a black male, approximately 5'11", 170 pounds, in his early 30s, with close-cropped hair and a mustache. His accomplice is described as a black female, 5'3" and "chunky."

Education can prevent crime

In an effort to reduce the occurrence of this scam and other crimes, CPs are trying to educate the MIT community about the issues involved in living in an urban campus area. To this end, CPs are offering a number of crime-prevention seminars.

The seminars are slated to cover urban crime, acquaintance rape, and personal safety. CPs are willing to give presentations to any fraternities, sororities, independent living groups, or dormitories or any other group who makes a request for one, said Sergeant Cheryl deJong Vossmer of the Crime Prevention and Sensitive Crimes Unit.

"Our main focus is to be invited to many FSILGs to give vital information," Vossmer said. "We want students to survive MIT as safely as possible without being victims of crime."

Vossmer stressed the importance of the educational seminars. There are simple steps that students can take to avoid being victims of crime. Any items students do not keep locked up, for example, will "more than likely grow legs and walk away," Vossmer said.

Chief of Police Anne P. Glavin, Sergeant Paul J. Baratta, and Vossmer will speak at President Charles M. Vest's reception this Saturday morning as part of Parents Orientation.

They will speak to graduate students on Tuesday on urban crime and learning to be streetwise.

New CP Web page available

A new CP homepage on the World Wide Web can be found at http://web.mit.edu/cp/www/. The first 450 people who visit the site will receive a free gift.

"The Safety, Security, and Crime Prevention Handbook for MIT" distributed by the CPs is available on the page. Crime statistics and Saferide shuttle information can also be found there.

Other services available on the CP's site include a new bicycle registration form and a campus lost-and-found section. Anonymous crime tips can also be sent online.

Course helps women fight rape

Rape Aggression Defense classes will also be offered again this year. "We focus heavily on rape because that's what women fear most," Glavin said.

The course teaches practical defense techniques that require no special skills. RAD also offers women the opportunity to test their newly-learned skills on a real person during a simulated attack.

Assailants attack people who look vulnerable and are, for example, walking around with headphones on and their head in a book, Glavin said. "We want people to avoid those encounters to start with," she said.

"If you know what types of situations to avoid, there is a very good chance of not having to encounter a situation like that," she said.

The fee to cover materials for the class is $20, payable to MIT within three days of registration for the class. Subsequent classes are free, Vossmer said.

Attendance is limited to the first 16 women who register with payment. Two physical education credits will be given for successful completion of the course.

RAD classes are limited to women, but special classes that include men or are designed for a specific group on campus can be conducted upon request, Glavin said.

"We'll make it worth their while," Vossmer said.