Four Temple students were heading to their homes west of Main Campus early in the evening on Friday, March 21 when they say they were attacked in three separate assaults by a group of approximately 10 youths.
One of the beatings, carried out with a brick, left a female student in the hospital requiring emergency surgery. Each of the women said they attempted to go to the police to report the incidents, only to find varying degrees of help. No alerts were sent out by Temple police and no arrests have been made as of Monday.
All four students agreed to share their stories with The Temple News on the condition of anonymity due to ongoing investigations and fear of repercussions.
As a 19-year-old criminal justice major and her 20-year-old boyfriend, an architecture major, neared his apartment walking toward 17th and Norris streets at 6 p.m., the two experienced what they said was an unprovoked attack by a group of eight to 10 youths who appeared to be 13 to 14 years old, the 20-year-old man said.
The two said the assault started with one initial attack from a member of the group. The rest began to join in harassing the students, targeing the female in particular. The minors began to pull her hair and reach for her earrings, shouting comments like “dumb b—-,” the woman said.
Attempting to escape the attack, the two crossed the street, while the man attempted to defend his girlfriend.
“Out of nowhere, [one of the girls] had a brick in her hand and hits me in the face,” she said.
The 19-year-old was hit twice in the face with the brick, pushing her teeth into the roof of her mouth. She described her appearance after the attack as one of “the most disgusting things [she] ever saw.” Her boyfriend immediately rushed her to his car to get to the hospital, while the attackers left.
“I was completely terrified,” he said. “I’ve never been put in a situation where I had to fight for my life before.”
Her boyfriend reached for the phone to call the Philadelphia Police Department, and upon immediately relaying the details of the assault, said he was told to “wait until [they] got to the hospital” to report what had happened.
Twenty minutes later, the two arrived at Hahnemann University Hospital.
Around the same time that Friday evening, two other female students reported similar attacks, all within a five-block radius.
A 20-year-old media studies and production major said she was walking down the 1700 block of Willington Street around 5:45 p.m. looking down at her phone. When she looked up she said a girl who appeared to be 13 to 14 years old punched her in the face.
The attacker joined by a group of seven to 10 other girls in the same age group while the victim ran home after being able to push the attacker back.
The woman said she later went to the 22nd Precinct police station on 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue to report what had happened, but said she was greeted by an officer who joked that the station was closed.
“He was very nonchalant about it,” she said. “He clearly wasn’t taking me seriously at all.”
The student said she was told “to call 911 if it happened again.” Out of frustration, she left without filling out a report, claiming that she felt like an “idiot.”
She said after hearing about the student assaulted with a brick minutes after her, she felt that the attacks could have been prevented if a report was filed.
A third woman, a 22-year-old athletic training major who also said she was walking home from the subway around 6 p.m. near the corner of 17th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue when she encountered a group of about 10 minors, who she said she assumed to be waiting for the bus.
“Next thing I knew, I was on the ground,” she said in an email. “One of the girls had come up from behind me and took a swing at my head. I fell to the ground.”
After sustaining minor cuts and what she said she believes to be a minor concussion, the woman said she didn’t feel like it was necessary to immediately contact the police. Instead, she said she took her frustration out on her own, throwing her backpack and putting a large hole in her wall.
On Sunday, she gave a statement to Temple police and answered questions from a detective.
While none of the other women required medical attention, the 19-year-old had to receive oral surgery to hold her teeth in place. In addition, the student has a fractured jawbone and mild concussion and will not find out whether she’ll be able to keep her teeth until a series of medical visits during the upcoming week.
After she was released from the hospital, the couple said they reported the attack to Temple police, but were told that 17th and Norris Streets are “out of [the university’s] jurisdiction.”
For the purposes of patrolling and reporting crime, as defined by the Clery Act, Main Campus extends as far north as 16th Street and Susquehanna Avenue, about two blocks from the attack.
Temple houses roughly 5,500 students on campus, while recent estimates from university officials say between 7,000 to 10,000 students live in off-campus housing.
The woman who was hit with the brick said she believes that just because they were slightly off-campus doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have been left unprotected.
“I was in pure daylight,” she said. “If [bike cops] were out, they should have seen me. Temple says they have great security, but I don’t know where they were when I was attacked.”
Acting Executive Director of Campus Safety Service Charlie Leone said that a TU Alert was not issued because of the timing of the situation. Since the students contacted Philadelphia police first, Temple’s authorities were not notified until hours later.
“The alerts are used for immediate threats, immediate action,” Leone said.
Though Leone said Temple’s officers work closely with Philadelphia police, “the system didn’t work because it was a different scenario than normal.”
Leone added that while the block where the attack occurred is not within Temple’s jurisdiction, there are officers that patrol the area.
Officer Christine O’Brien of the Philadelphia police public affairs office said she could not comment on the delay between students and action taken by the authorities since she was not directly involved.
Typically, O’Brien said, the police would not go to the scene of the crime without the victims present, but would instead meet them directly at the hospital.
The victimized couple is working with Philadelphia police to find suspects, which the 19-year-old victim said has been difficult because of their ages.
“I’m glad that they’re putting in the effort they are,” she said. “But I’m bitter toward the whole situation.”
Leone said as of Monday, Temple police were not made aware of the other incidences, other than the one involving a brick.
Patricia Madej can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @PatriciaMadej.