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News UPD believes report of attempted kidnapping at Scianna Hall...

UPD believes report of attempted kidnapping at Scianna Hall is inaccurate

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The University Police Department has no evidence that an attempted kidnapping outside of Scianna Hall happened Tuesday night.

Screenshots of a GroupMe message about the attack began circulating on social media Wednesday afternoon.

The post said, “Last night a girl was leaving scianna hall at USM and a man grabbed her an threw her into a van. She was able to find some way to open the back of the van and jump out while it was moving. She was at the police station all last night. Please be safe and don’t walk around alone at night. Hearing this happened last night at the building I have classes at really shakes me up. Please pray for the girl because I know she has to be an emotional mess.”

In an email statement from chief communications officer Jim Coll, Coll said UPD “believes the social media report is inaccurate.”

“UPD does not have a record of this incident, nor was it reported to UPD. While officers continue to follow up on concerning social media posts, to the best of UPD’s current knowledge, no evidence exists of a crime as it was described in the social media post. Members of the USM community are reminded to report concerns or suspicious behavior immediately to UPD at 601-266-4986, or call 9-1-1 in an emergency,” he said.

Junior psychology major Brayla Lawson said she was surprised when she learned there was no evidence of the attack.

“When I heard about it, I was very fearful because there are so many things going on today,” Lawson said. “Sex trafficking is nothing to play with, and [making up the rumor is] insensitive to the victims. UPD should bring back their escort services because it adds a protective feeling to the campus that a lot of students are missing right now.”

Social media posts warning of strange activity on campus have been spread several times in the last month after UPD stopped the escort service, which used to provide rides anywhere on campus during the evening.

Sophomore theater major Madison Deberry tweeted about a strange man lurking outside of Hillcrest residence hall Friday after seeing other people share stories about the sighting online.

UPD tweeted that no strange activity had been reported Thursday.

DeBerry said she constantly feels unsafe on campus.

“I and I’m sure numerous women have been approached by random men we didn’t ask to, and in some cases, it leads to scarier situations whether it be on campus or the gas station.”

DeBerry said she believes it is important to inform people on how to stay safe and has tweeted a thread of safety tips.

An online petition to get UPD’s escort service back was created Tuesday and now has more than 3,000 electronic signatures.

According to the latest update by the petition’s creator, she met with dean of students Wednesday and will meet with the dean again Thursday.

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