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Scarsdale Residents, Colleges Shaken by Spierer

SCARSDALE - Like many in the village, Scarsdale High School freshman Zoe Berg is shaken up about missing Edgemont student Lauren Spierer .

"Now that this horrible thing has happened I am becoming more aware," said Berg. "You never know. That is what it boils down to."

Eliana Drescher, a Scarsdale High School sophomore, is also upset about the missing Edgemont girl.

"It scared me because she is such a normal person," said Drescher.

The proximity of Spierer’s hometown to theirs made the story feel even more real for the teens.

"She is from Edgemont, the next town over," said Kathryn Cotter.

Berg, Drescher, Cotter and the rest of their friends said they always walk in groups around Scarsdale and they plan to do the same when they are in college.

Susan Hirsch, a Scarsdale resident and mother of college-aged children said the lessons she had tried to teach her children about safety reinforces her concern.

"I know we've told our children to not ever walk alone,” she said. “This is our greatest fear hitting close to home.”

As the story has brought pause to Drescher, Cotter, Hirsch and many residents in Scarsdale as well as around the country, so has it to colleges throughout Westchester. Colleges throughout the county are reflecting on 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."

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