OPD to Trace Scary Phone Harassment
BY ALYSON DAME
Over the past two weeks, students have reported a number of harassing phone calls on campus. The caller, who has been identified as male, seems to call around campus in numerical succession. The Department of Safety and Security has issued flyers encouraging students and faculty to hang up on any harassing callers, and report the incident to the police.
“He seems to picking dorms out and then just calling down the hall,” Oberlin Police Detective Victor Ortiz said. According to Ortiz, between 20 and 30 reports have been made and “they keep piling up.”
Assistant Director of Safety and Security Marge Burton said, “It appears that it’s random but I don’t believe everyone receiving calls is reporting them. The caller may be going down a list of numbers numerically.”
Both Burton and Ortiz believe that the calls do not pose a great threat. “I don’t think anybody’s in danger. I think whoever’s doing this is just acting childish, basically,” Ortiz said.
Burton said the calls could be a way for the caller to feel powerful or controlling, and that hanging up on him is the best option. “The purpose is to gratify themselves by having control over the person and alarming or upsetting that person,” she said. She warned recipients not to give out personal information and said, “It’s probably not a good idea to stay on the phone and try to play detective.”
Even if the harassing calls are simply annoying and unsettling, they do constitute a crime. “This is actually an offense, telephone harassment,” Ortiz said.
“We take each report seriously. We make an incident report for each call reported,” Burton said.
Sophomore Hannah Logan returned from the Talcott Formal on April 28 to discover two disturbing messages on her machine.
“The first message was a man talking like he was leaving a message for another man who had insulted him or something because he kept saying things like ‘I’m gonna kick your ass.’ He sounded like he had something in his mouth, like his persona would be chewing tobacco or something. He left a name and a number to call back. The second message started out like a hick southern voice talking about how he got my number from my friend and just wanted to get to know me, maybe go out for pizza or spagetti or.... He went on and on. Then he changed his accent and just started stuttering and left first an extension, then stuttered as if to cover it up and left the same phone number the guy in the first message left,” she said.
Logan called Security. “He said it just sounded like a wrong number. And the second guy just sounded drunk. I didn’t feel like the security officer was taking me seriously, which was annoying, and so when I wrote out my statement I felt like I was defending myself,” she said.
Later, a second Security officer came to Logan’s room to further investigate. “I was glad at least somebody seemed interested in all these phone calls. [Diane] came by and was really friendly and validating, and took the tape to record it.”
Ortiz is trying to start a trace by reporting the calls to the Verizon/GPE Nuisance Call Bureau. “In order to lodge a complaint with a telephone company, a report must be made to the police department after which the recipient of the call should call the Nuisance Call Bureau,” Burton said. Security has been forwarding all complaints to the Oberlin police.
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