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The hunt for the serial masturbators

Credit: Anna Boyle/Art Editor Credit: Anna Boyle/Art Editor

Driving a green car, an older car, and most recently, a blue car. The identity of Carnegie Mellon’s very own Scranton Strangler, or better yet, Mellon Masturbator, remains elusive to this day. With six distinct incidents occurring in the span of two years, these instances of indecent exposure have raised numerous concerns among the students at Carnegie Mellon University.
With the first of this string of events occurring on March 19, 2016, and the most recent on April 11, 2018, the consistency of these crimes has boggled and worried various students and parents thereof.

“Now six of these since 2016, is that a lot? It’s significant in that it’s got everyone’s attention. What actually gets everyone’s attention, which I’m happy about, is the safety alerts,” says Chief Thomas Ogden of the Carnegie Mellon police department.

Ogden assures that the Carnegie Mellon police department is doing everything in their power to apprehend these criminals. However, the various descriptions given to the police indicate no similarities or trends among the unknown number of suspects leading to further difficulty in the investigation. Descriptions range from a 20 year-old to a six-foot bald man. The only similarity amongst the various suspects is that they are all male.

Another barrier for the Carnegie Mellon police is their strict adherence to their jurisdiction. Working with the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh police, the Carnegie Mellon police department patrols and protects a very specific area within Pittsburgh, namely Carnegie Mellon’s campus. Only the most recent reported instance lies within Carnegie Mellon’s police jurisdiction.

“The only one of these six that we have any jurisdiction in is the most recent one, the other ones, we don’t have any police powers there,” says Chief Ogden. “The crime alerts we sent out, some of them, are relative to things that happened way off-campus. They’re areas that the students frequent, so I just want to make sure you know that this area and the South Side, there was a problem and just be careful, you know, act accordingly,” he continues.

The best and most helpful approach to anyone who experiences similar crimes is immediate action.

“In the moment, the best thing to do is call immediately,” says Chief Ogden. “It’s the delay that hurts. In cases like this, our average response time is exceptional. We’re out there all the time on campus and around the campus so if we get the call, there’s a much better chance we can do something.”

Ogden’s call for immediate action after a crime derives from the innate reaction people have after witnessing or being involved with a crime. People, including students at Carnegie Mellon, tend to wait after witnessing a crime, possibly out of shock or fear.

“It’s just a human nature thing, you’re busy, you got away from it, you think about it, maybe you tell a few people and then by the time the police get told there’s nothing for us to do immediately,” says Chief Ogden. “That’s common anywhere, people wait.”

Immediate reporting, even given a busy schedule, is an imperative step towards catching the many men at large indecently exposing themselves around Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh campus. Ogden attributes the motives of these men to several possibilities including mental health or impaired judgement.

“I’ve been doing this 39 years and these people have some issue obviously, whether they need attention, they have mental health issues,” Ogden stipulates. “Other instances people are intoxicated and they just do it. It’s varied, everyone’s different.”

The problem at hand does not, in any way, rest soundly with the Carnegie Mellon Police department. Their limitations, based on jurisdiction and the lack of detail and immediacy in reports, has made catching these criminals a challenging task. In the case that these crimes do move closer to campus, Ogden and the police department are prepared to take immediate action.
“If we had six [crimes occur] on campus, we’d be doing a number of things like stakeouts, video, unmarked cars, but unfortunately, these are all over the place at different times.”