University Police 'optimistic' evidence will lead to arrest

ALFRED — The University Police Department at Alfred State “is optimistic that scientific analysis may yield a conclusion” to arson fires that plagued a residence hall in November, the college said in a statement posted on its website Wednesday.

In its latest update on the arson probe and the search for suspects, Alfred State officials revealed that the high-tech investigation is utilizing federal criminal profiling, DNA, video surveillance and a “silent witness” system to generate leads.

Local law enforcement agencies as well as county and state fire investigators are probing three fires that were intentionally set over a seven-day period in November. The fires were reported on Nov. 8, Nov. 14 and Nov. 15 in Mackenzie North residence hall. Each of the fires were set in trash cans, college officials said, adding that paper and plastic were burned in one instance, and clothing was set on fire in the two other incidents.

The fires have upset the campus and dealt trauma to students, College President Dr. Skip Sullivan said last month. Significant law enforcement resources and personnel have taken part in the investigation, including University Police, the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Alfred Fire Department, Allegany County fire investigators and the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control.

Latest Developments

Alfred State said Wednesday that University Police continue to coordinate with law enforcement agencies and fire investigators “to identify suspect(s) in the MacKenzie North trash can fires.”

The college also said, “Officers have interviewed numerous witnesses, collected important evidence, and have taken proactive steps to prevent any more fires from occurring.”

With classes recessed for winter break, “officers and evidence analysts continue to place priority on this investigation and are working to ensure your continued safety,” the college said Wednesday in a message to students.

According to University Police, leads are being generated by security camera footage, crime scene evidence, and individual tips.

The investigation has coordinated with the FBI to profile suspects, and voice-stress analyzers and polygraph examinations have been utilized, the college said.

And Alfred State added, “The (University Police Department) is optimistic that scientific analysis may yield a conclusion to the case during the following weeks.”

Sullivan calls for cooperation

The college president pledged continued support for students and encouraged anyone with relevant information to contact authorities.

“I personally visited with evacuated students and I appreciate hearing all concerns,” Sullivan said on the college’s website. “We held an open forum in the Student Leadership Center to make representatives from all areas of campus available for questions. This input greatly assists our response and investigation.”

Sullivan continued, “I cannot emphasize enough that we must work together to assist this investigation. Anyone with knowledge that may be helpful should come forward by sharing it directly with our University Police Department (UPD) at 607-587-3999 or through the Silent Witness system (on the college web site) to aid the investigation.”

Going forward

The college said an expanded police presence will remain in place across the campus, with dedicated patrols at MacKenzie North. Students' requests to move to another residence hall are being handled by the Residence Hall director or the Office of Residential Services at the Townhouse Commons office.

Alfred State's Development Fund Board continues to offer a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect or of suspects.

College officials said no events or classes have been cancelled due to the MacKenzie North incidents, but faculty will continue to work with students who have faced academic challenges as a result of the fires.