PAPS Urges Caution After UVM Homicide

PA has heightened its awareness of campus safety after the abduction and murder of University of Vermont student Michelle Gardner-Quinn. Gardner-Quinn disappeared around 2:30 AM on October 8 from Main Street in downtown Burlington, and her body was found a week later. While the Academy has never had an on-campus kidnapping, the event has made Phillips Academy Public Safety Officers (PAPS) especially vigilant, according to Public Safety Manager Thomas Conlon. Although many students believe that PAPS officers are not allowed to chase people, they have no such restrictions. PAPS will also confront anyone they see on campus after sign-in or during the daytime “if we have reason to believe they don’t belong here, [or] if they raise a red flag.” PAPS officers, however, do lack the power to arrest. If they have reason to place someone under arrest, PAPS must call the Andover police. In the event of a kidnapping, PA would first call upon the Andover Police, as detailed in the Academy’s Disaster Response and Recovery Plan. The plan details many responses to specific situations that could pose safety risks on campus, from natural disasters to suicide to a sniper on campus. According to Mr. Conlon, sign-in protects Andover students to some extent by keeping them in dorms during the late night and early morning. He still urges students to walk in groups and stay on the paths when they are out at night. While precautions like “be careful crossing Main Street” have become an ongoing joke among students and faculty, both recent and past events show the reality of danger at Andover. Currently two Level Three sex offenders live in the town of Andover. In 1981, a teaching fellow was raped near Carriage House while she was walking up Main Street. The 1981 assault, came with a rise in violent crime across the U.S., and prompted then Head of School Ted Sizer to tighten campus security. He eliminated cluster-based student security patrols, which took place on Saturday and some Friday nights, out of concern for the patrollers and thinned the trees and shrubbery around campus. Furthermore, he shifted the responsibility of locking dorms from PAPS to the house counselors. This change allowed public safety officers to focus on patrolling and remains in effect today. PAPS continues to improve safety on campus. About seven years ago, Public Safety installed nighttime lighting around campus. Most recently, they added lights to Great Quad Road, between the back of Samuel Phillips Hall and the vicinity of Day Hall. According to Mr. Conlon, the key to campus safety is common sense. He said, “We ask people to really use their common sense and to not jeopardize themselves ,and if they see something that…catches their attention or raises a red flag they should call us right away.” Although a registered sex offender has never been spotted on campus, PAPS officers are familiar with the pictures of those offenders that live in Andover. The Andover police update PAPS on the area’s sex offenders, but the information is also available online. Compared to its surrounding towns, Andover has a low number of registered sex offenders. Two Level Three offenders live in Andover, along with 12 Level Two offenders. The term Level Three denotes offenders who pose a high risk of committing another offense, while Level Two offenders are considered a moderate risk. North Reading is the only town bordering Andover that has fewer sex offenders. Lawrence is the bordering town with the highest number of sex offenders, with 32 Level Three and 102 Level Two offenders. One of two Andover’s Level Three offenders commited one offense 20 years ago, while the other was convicted in both 1988 and 2001. School policies combined with PAPS patrols provide the Academy with a relatively secure environment, so PAPS reminds students to remain vigilant. As demonstrated in the case of Michelle Gardner-Quinn, students should be constantly aware of themselves, their surroundings and one another.