, Salem, MA


September 30, 2013

Our view: A reassuring response to Salem State incident

Here’s what went wrong last Wednesday: A man boarded a Salem State University shuttle bus and attacked a student with a knife. The bus driver intervened and was also slashed. Fortunately, neither was injured seriously, but the man escaped, triggering an extensive police search.

After that, however, a lot of things went right.

In the weeks to come, there probably will be a few postmortems to determine how everyone — the university, the city, the campus and city police forces, and the public schools — responded to what could have been a tragedy. And as local officials review what happened, we’re sure they’ll identify some areas where they could improve.

But, overall, the view from here is that local officials responded just the way you would hope they would, acting quickly to identify and search for the suspect, safeguard the community, inform the public and avert a panic.

Salem Police and University Police acted quickly and in tandem and were assisted by a number of Marblehead officers, including the chief of police, who came over to help. Not only did they have the Salem State community to protect, but the children in the on-campus Horace Mann Elementary School. Police not only monitored children boarding buses and being picked up by parents as the school day ended, but they personally drove other children to their homes so that no child was walking in the neighborhood while the suspect was at large.

Good security planning was evident from the get-go. Police were first notified of the bus incident at 11:10 a.m., and security alerts started going out to the university community 35 minutes later — by text, email and telephone. Lockdowns on the campus at the Horace Mann School appeared to go without a hitch, as police searched for the suspect.

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