Kidnap Attempt Thwarted

Attacker in Honda used fake gun in unsuccessful abduction on JFK St.

A woman walking on JFK Street early yesterday morning was nearly abducted after a man brandishing a fake gun attempted to force her into his car, police said.

The victim, who is not affiliated with the University, told police that the assailant followed her from the Harvard Square T stop in his car at about 2:00 a.m. yesterday, according to a Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) advisory sent to students yesterday.

The male driver of the car allegedly pulled over his Honda Accord, displayed a gun, and attempted to get the victim into his car but fled when a security guard at the Kennedy School of Government arrived, according to the advisory.

Police determined that the gun was fake after the assailant dropped it, Cambridge Police Department (CPD) spokesman Frank T. Pasquarello said.

CPD, HUPD, and the Massachusetts State Police Department were unable to find the offender after searching the area, but the victim described him as a Hispanic male in his late 20s weighing about 225 lbs. and standing at 5’10’’, according to the report. The suspect was reportedly wearing a black-hooded sweatshirt and baggy jeans, according to the victim.

An Eliot House resident whose room faces JFK Street said yesterday that she heard a scream outside her window that morning.

“I heard within probably five or 10 minutes of each other, a car screech in a really loud, sort of dragged out way,” Andreea Akerele ’08 said. “Also, I heard a very loud, shrill scream from what sounded like a relatively young woman.”

Pasquarello said yesterday’s incident did not result from inadequate security.

“A police car could have gone by 20 seconds earlier,” he said. “There’s no way of predicting when someone’s going to be attacked or the subject of a criminal act.”

Kirkland House Master Tom Conley said that although traumatizing events had previously occurred in the Square, “this is the first time I’ve gotten something as lurid as this.”

Conley said that it was important for residents of all the nearby Houses to remember that although they may feel safe, “We’re in an urban environment, and one has to pay extreme attention at all times and have their eyes and ears peeled.”

The crime represented a threat “especially for women,” he added.

He said that the HUPD-run campus escort service is a good option for those students who feel unsafe in light of the attempted abduction.

But if past statistics are any indication, the number of those using the services might remain flat.

When the program began in March 2004, only an average of two students used the services, even after eight indecent assaults within the span of three months had occurred.

Students adopted a cautious, if not distressed, attitude when discussing the incident yesterday.

“There wasn’t any widespread sense of alarm,” said Jacquelyn Chou ’07, a Kirkland resident. “People really haven’t been talking about it. It was a little startling that it was on JFK Street, because in general, I consider areas like that to be pretty safe. And I probably will try to be more careful when I go out at night.”

Laura K. Chappell-Campbell ’07, also a Kirkland resident, said she would now consider calling the escort service if she were in a remote area.

“It makes me a little more hesitant and selective about the areas I would choose to walk in,” she said.

Some students were unsure whether it was appropriate for the advisory to label the assailant as Hispanic.

“Having that description does not necessarily mean a certain phenotype or physical characteristic,” said Felipe A. Tewes ’06, former president of Fuerza Latina. “What’s sad is that they’re probably going to be looking for a certain type of image of what a Latino criminal would look like. I don’t believe that would be helpful.”

According to Conley, the issue of protecting oneself looms large.

“One constantly has to be aware,” he said. “You don’t have to go far from Harvard to realize that we’re not in a utopia by any means.”

—Staff writer Rebecca M. Anders can be reached at