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Students Still Get Prank Calls

FBI Says Investigation of Phone Calls is Low Priority

By Joshua A. Gerstein

The man who called more than 40 students last semester posing as a police officer has redoubled his efforts in recent weeks, phoning dozens more to ask about their roommates and living habits, Harvard police said yesterday.

And though Harvard affiliates have reported more than 100 such calls since late October, police say they are stymied in their efforts to catch the perpetrator.

According to Harvard police Deputy Chief Jack W. Morse, the calls have been traced out of state. He said that means "it's a federal case."

Paul Kavanaugh, a spokesperson for the Boston FBI office, confirmed that the agency has launched an investigation into the harassing calls. An agent came to campus and interviewed several students who had received calls, he said.

Kavanaugh said the Boston agent has contacted the New York FBI office, asking them to find and interview the caller. But because of a backlog of cases and the low priority accorded to phone harassment, the bureau has yet to take any action.

New York FBI spokesperson Joseph Valiquette said he was unaware of the investigation.

Asked if his office would handle such a case quickly, Valiquette said, "It would not be the highest priority. The highest priorities in this office are foreign counter-intelligence, organized crime, white-collar crime, terrorism and narcotics."

Morse said the telephone company has records of who is making the calls, but cannot turn them over without a court order.

"What we're held down by is getting a warrant out of state through federal authorities. It's pretty much out of our hands. It's frustrating," he said.

In most of the calls, an authoritative middle-aged man claims to be a lieutenant from the Massachusetts Detective Bureau or the Massachusetts Police Detective Bureau and tells the student that someone has been making obscene calls from her phone. According to police, the man, who uses the names Peter Jarvis, Robert Gerard and Daniel Rogers, has focused the calls on women.

At first, the man succeeded in convincing some women that he was actually a police officer. But Morse said the calls are now more of an annoyance, since most students have heard news of the earlier incidents.

"People are pretty well apprised of the situation. But there are a couple of cases where they apparently don't subscribe to The Crimson," Morse said.

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