White Plains Daily Voice

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White Plains Residents Are Edgy After Spierer

Lauren Spierer's disappearance has put many in White Plains, including mother Margaret Voltaire, on edge.

"As a parent it makes me very nervous when your child goes away and something like this happens," said Voltaire, a loan portfolio administrator at General Electric. "[My son] is going to Westchester Community College and will live with us. But then we'll get the nerves when he's alone after that."

Voltaire, 55, has joined others parents in warning their children to be more careful.

"They key is to try to travel in pairs or with a group and not to travel by himself late at night," said Voltaire.

Janice Delancy, who has two recent college graduates and a 17-year old daughter, mentioned she and her daughters stay in touch via text messages when they're going out at night.

"I've always been very cautious but of course you feel worse when something like this happens," said Delancy, a violin teacher from Bedford. "You always try to be so vigilant and no matter how hard you try you just never know."

Her daughter, Juliette, said the Edgemont student's disappearance was more pertinent because a few of her Fox Lane High School classmates know Spierer.

"Some people knew her and they were scared," said Juliette Delancy, while shopping with her mom at The Westchester mall in White Plains. "I would never be at the train station at 4:30 a.m., but hearing that, I don't want to be out late alone. I don't want to walk at night."

The story has also brought pause to colleges throughout Westchester. Many schools are studying how best to make sure students are safe both on and off their campuses.

All of Westchester's five residential colleges use similar methods to communicate with students, such as standard security lectures at orientations or e-mail and text message alerts, in the event of emergencies. However, there are still some unique measures taken in the county.

Mercy College officials said its safety office met regularly with students to keep them informed. They also use New York Alert to send safety updates to students' e-mail addresses and cell phones.

Iona College in New Rochelle works with the city's police department to monitor off-campus residents, said Vice Provost for Student Development Charles J. Carlson.

"We have limited resources, but we feel the investment is worth it," Carlson said about the additional cost of protecting off-campus residents.

Carlson said Iona College works with New Rochelle police and off-duty officers on weekends to patrol on and off campus.

Purchase College in Harrison took a more on-the-ground approach to protecting students by increasing the number and visibility of emergency phones on campus. Director of Residence Life John Delate said the school has taken extra precautions in recent years that have only been reinforced by Spierer's disappearance.

"We don't want people paranoid, but they can't be complacent either," Delate said. "This incident happened in a relatively safe place."

Vice President of Manhattanville College Doug Geiger said his school sends direct messages to students to remind them of the dangers they could encounter.

"The thing we convey to our students is that they're not immortal. They think they are, but they're not," Geiger said. "Because of that, we have to instill in them that they need to think about their own safety and think about being aware of their surroundings."