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Several Crimes, Shooting Incident Lead to Increase in MIT Patrols

By Jonathan Wang

PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR

A rash of crimes near MIT has resulted in increased patrols by the MIT Police.

On Dec. 22, Alice Olmstead, 16, the sister of Juliana D. Olmstead ’06, was shot in the right hip outside the Sidney-Pacific graduate residence. The MIT Police have “increased patrols drastically” as a result, said John DiFava, the police chief.

Since the shooting, which has been classified as an aggravated assault, the police have issued three crime bulletins: an armed robbery occurred at the Fleet ATM at Mass Ave. and Vassar St. on Jan. 2, a female Harvard undergraduate was groped from behind on Jan. 10 in Harvard Yard, and shots were fired outside the Cambridgeport Saloon near Random Hall around 1 a.m. yesterday.

Olmstead visiting sister

The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported that Olmstead was hit at 4:55 p.m. with a small-caliber bullet, BB, or pellet while walking with her father to Sidney-Pacific. Police are not sure what type of projectile was used because doctors determined that a removal procedure would be unnecessarily invasive.

“We’re not calling it a sniper,” said Frank Pasquarello, the public information officer for the Cambridge Police, who are investigating the shooting. “We don’t know if it was someone that was malicious, or just aiming at her and not understanding that BB guns are powerful and dangerous,” he said.

DiFava said that he is “very comfortable” with the Cambridge Police’s ongoing investigation of the shooting. The investigation will be difficult because no suspects were seen at the scene of the crime, DiFava said.

More lighting considered

Additional lighting near Sidney-Pacific is under consideration as a result of the shooting.

“We would certainly like to see MIT do more in terms of changing the environment around Sidney-Pacific,” said Associate Housemaster Keith N. Hampton.

Hampton said that the recent addition of Sidney-Pacific to the winter Tech Shuttle’s morning route will help keep residents safe, but also pointed out the gap in shuttle service to Sidney-Pacific between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. -- after the Tech Shuttle stops serving the dormitory, but before the beginning of Saferide service.

Patrols around S-P increased

MIT Police patrols have increased in the area, and will be checking in with Sidney-Pacific’s front desk, DiFava said. Bicycle patrols will be introduced in the area when the weather gets warmer, he said.

In an emergency, members of the community should call the MIT Police directly -- at 617-253-1212 -- instead of 911 from their cell phones, DiFava said, because 911 calls must be routed through the Massachusetts State Police and the Cambridge Police.

While the MIT Police have a response time of less than two minutes, the logistics of routing mean that response times from the Cambridge Police would be much slower, he said. DiFava said campus police officers have the same powers as the Cambridge Police: “They would do the same as Cambridge Police if they were involved in a situation.”

Unusually high number of crimes

In other recent incidents, an armed robbery took place at about 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 2 outside the Fleet ATM on Mass Ave. and Vassar St. The suspect stole the victim’s wallet as he exited the ATM kiosk, holding him at gunpoint before fleeing in a black SUV towards Boston.

Last Saturday, the Harvard University Police reported that a female undergraduate was groped from behind by a teenage male on a bicycle.

Yesterday morning at about 1 a.m., gunshots were exchanged between two groups known to each other outside the Cambridgeport Saloon next to Random Hall.

No clear link with broken windows

Neither DiFava nor Pasquarello would comment on whether Olmstead’s injury was connected with damage inflicted to the windows of Sidney-Pacific by BBs in December 2002 and January 2003.

Hampton said, however, that the shooting and last year’s broken windows appeared to be unrelated.