PointALERT text notifies students of Market Square stabbing

Written By Emily Bennett


Point Park students received PointALERT text messages and were ushered inside by campus police Friday, Sept. 25 after a stabbing took place in Market Square.  

The PointALERT text, which was sent around 10 p.m. Friday, stated that police were looking for a white male, around 5’6”, wearing a chef’s uniform. It was also mentioned that the individual was last seen headed towards the Student Center. A follow-up text was sent some thirty minutes later, stating that the individual had been identified and that there was a warrant out for his arrest. According to Point Park Chief of Police Jeffrey Besong, the suspect turned himself in to Pittsburgh Police and stabbed one person with a box cutter. 

Not every student received the emergency alert text message. Only those that signed up for PointALERT notifications received information regarding the stabbing. According to Besong, the text message notifications come directly from the Public Safety Department, and are generated only when an event poses an immediate threat to students. 

“In the event that there is a confirmed significant emergency or dangerous situation constituting an immediate threat to the campus community, in the judgment of the University’s Chief of the Police, an emergency notification is sent out in real time,” Besong said. This is the third emergency situation that Point Park students have been made aware of this semester, but the first that has been sent out by means of the PointALERT text message generator. Information regarding the other two incidents was sent to students over email. 

The first message, sent on Sept. 16, had information concerning reports of two separate situations that involved a “Luring Attempt” near Duquesne University campus. Students were advised to exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings. The second email was sent on Sept. 22, and contained information regarding a report of a sexual assault that took place off campus near Stanwix Street and Fourth Avenue. The email contained a description of the man in question as well as safety tips, stressing the importance of walking in groups after dark, even in areas in which you are familiar. 

Students who didn’t sign up for PointALERT were alarmed that they didn’t receive any sort of notification concerning the stabbing. Freshman musical theater major Michael Mekus was one of those students who have yet to sign up for the text notifications, and instead received a group text from his friends concerning the stabbing. 

“I didn’t know any details at the time, but my friends were texting me and telling me to stay inside, because some of them got the text alert directly from Point Park and were told by police to go inside Lawrence Hall,” Mekus said.

 He confirmed that he received emails regarding the other two incidents, but not the stabbing. 

“I think everyone should have gotten an email, for sure. It’s probably more my fault for not signing up for the text alerts in the first place, but I know lots of people who have their Point Park email hooked up to their phone, and receive notifications anytime they get an email, just like a text,” Mekus said. 

In response to whether or not students should be informed of life-threatening incidents across the board, despite having not signed up for PointALERT, Chief of Police Besong said that PointALERT is not utilized for “timely warnings.”  Besong stated, 

“The suspicious persons [identified in the email alerts] fell under a ‘Timely Warning,’” Besong said.  “Timely Warning advisories are made to the campus community that may represent an ongoing threat to the safety of students or employees. This is more of an advisory of suspicious activity.” 

To prevent future incidents similar to these ones, Besong advised that students stay alert of their surroundings – “Pay attention to other pedestrians coming toward you, behind you, or across the street.”  

Students can sign up to receive future PointALERT text messages by accessing the Public Safety homepage at pointpark.edu. For assistance, call Point Park Police at 412-392-3960.