On Feb. 23, a man in possession of a machete and a stolen ID card was arrested in Van Pelt library. He was trailed into the library by a Penn employee and apprehended by Penn Police within the span of 16 minutes. While 16 minutes might seem long to anyone witnessing the event, the arrest was fairly quick, and some students in the library were unaware of what had happened until the situation had passed.
We commend Penn and the Division of Public Safety for their quick response and prompt arrest of the man with the knife. Their awareness and communication was excellent and stopped a situation that could have gotten very out of hand.
However, this is a situation that should not have existed in the first place. A man with a machete should not have been able to gain access into Van Pelt, regardless of the fact that he was able to sign in using the visitor management system, which requires photo ID and a picture taken at the visitor’s desk. At this point, the man had already been tailed by a Penn employee who saw that he was carrying what appeared to be a knife. If he was so suspicious that he was noticed outside the library, the question then becomes, “How was he allowed access into the building?” We can see no reason for the man to have been given access to Van Pelt — a closed area with largely defenseless students studying — judging by the aforementioned suspicion.
Van Pelt seems to pay lip service to safety and security. As we wrote in a previous editorial, bag checks on the way out of the library are the bane of Penn students. The appearance of concern over safety is made, yet actual safety is perhaps created to a lesser degree. We’re not suggesting that bag checks should be instituted on the way in, but perhaps more oversight of who gains entrance is warranted. What truly matters to the safety of Penn students is not what leaves the library, but what enters it.
On a tangential note, some students did not receive the UPennAlert that there was “Increased Police Activity at Inside Van Pelt library.” Others who did receive the email, but weren’t checking their email every few minutes, missed the immediate alert.
Thankfully, the holes in information dispersal didn’t affect anyone in this particular instance, but there is clearly a bug in the system that needs to be fixed.
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