On Wednesday, Sept. 25, The University Police Department (UPD) sent out an advisory email to all faculty and staff warning of inappropriate phone calls being made to female faculty and staff members.
The email explains that there have been three to four instances of calls that “consist of a male caller who has called female staff and faculty on their campus extensions acting as if his child, a student at New Paltz, is having a problem. The caller then attempts to engage in a sexually explicit conversation.”
UPD is investigating these reports to “identify the caller and their location.” UPD has been able to block the caller’s number from contacting any campus phone and neither staff or faculty members have received a similar call since.
It has been determined that the same male caller is making these calls every time, however, it has not been determined if he is affiliated with SUNY New Paltz or if he lives in the area.
According to U.S. Code, “acts by means of telephone, makes any obscene communication for commercial purposes to any person, regardless of whether the maker of such communication placed the call,” are prohibited.
In some states like Virginia “any person who uses obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious, or indecent language, or makes any suggestion or proposal of an obscene nature, or threatens any illegal or immoral act with the intent to coerce, intimidate or harass any person, over any telephone or citizens band radio, in this Commonwealth, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.”
The punishment for a Class 1 misdemeanor is jail for up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500, or both.
According to UPD Chief of Police Mary Ritayik, this is not the first time these types of phone calls have been made to faculty and staff members on campus and it is difficult to find out who is responsible for these calls.
“Caller information is difficult to capture due to easy access over the internet to make calls under assumed names and locations,” Ritayik said.
Ritayik explained that it is difficult to find out who is making these calls because of a technique called “spoofing.”
“With the use of internet phone numbers, such as Google Phone, you can create your own number and name associated with it,” Ritayik said. “Then once someone has placed the calls, they can move onto creating another phone number and name. So, if you received a harassing phone call from [a number] today and block that number, tomorrow you can get the same caller calling you with a new number, making it difficult to trace and block future calls.”
According to Ritayik, there is potential for the man making these calls to face charges, however, they would need to “confer with the district attorney’s office for proper charges to be filed.”
UPD recommended to faculty and staff to forward any similar calls they receive to their anonymous tip line at 845-257-2230.