A Branford College freshman was the target of vandalism and a series of threats over the last week, spurring a flurry of rumors around Old Campus and a constant police presence outside Vanderbilt Hall.

In an e-mail to his college’s freshmen late Wednesday, Branford Master Steven Smith warned that a student had reported “several disturbing incidents of vandalism, anonymous messages and harassment” and advised students to take caution in ensuring their doors are locked before they go to bed at night. Students in Vanderbilt, where Branford freshmen live, said several of those messages included death threats directed at the student.

The Yale Police Department has launched an investigation into the matter, YPD Chief James Perrotti confirmed on Thursday. Perrotti declined to provide further details, citing the continuing investigation.

“It’s an ongoing investigation, and we’re right in the middle,” Perrotti said.

The only the sign of the incident on the YPD crime logs is a report of “criminal mischief” at Vanderbilt Hall at an unknown date and time.

According to students in Branford, a freshman was the victim of several acts of serious vandalism in recent days and also received threatening messages from an anonymous person. The student is said to have spent at least one recent night sleeping his friend’s suite out of fear that he could be in danger.

Students spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. Some students said they had been instructed by University officials and the YPD not to comment about the incident until the matter is resolved.

Two of the targets suitemate’s declined to comment. His roommate could not be reached for comment.

The victim — whose name is being withheld by the News at his request — had landed parts in two prominent campus theatrical productions this fall, and some students speculated that the threats may have been made in retaliation by a student who was passed over for a part in one of the plays.

The mother of the targeted student said she could not yet comment about the incident or the investigation.

The incident had shaken students in Vanderbilt and around Old Campus, where rumors were rampant on Thursday. Residents of Vanderbilt said a YPD officer has recently been stationed in front of the dormitory at all hours.

University officials have been noticeably vague in describing the incident. In his e-mail, Smith told students to watch for suspicious behavior and ensure their entryway doors are locked when they leave their suite and when they go to bed at night.

“I do not wish to alarm anyone, but my highest priority, as always, is the safety and security of the students in this college,” he wrote.

While many students said they were frustrated with the lack of information offered by Yale officials, some said they understand the investigators’ discretion.

Jie Qu ’11, a freshman in Branford, said she does not know much about the incident besides what was in Smith’s e-mail, but that she expects the officials to update students as information becomes available.

“I feel like if there is an investigation or something, I don’t know how much info they can give,” she said. “I’m sure if they knew what happened for sure they would tell us.”

Also on Wednesday, Branford Dean Daniel Tauss sent an e-mail to all Branford students urging them to be “a force for good.” It did not specifically address the incident in Vanderbilt, but appeared to have been prompted by it. His e-mail closed with the contact information for seven campus support resources as well as the YPD, followed by typical college announcements.

Tauss’ 600-word introduction to his weekly Branford-wide e-mail did not specifically address the incident in Vanderbilt but appeared to have been prompted by it.

“I urge each of you to think carefully about the impact of your actions, in terms of how a specific individual might be the victim of your behavior, more broadly how it might negatively impact our community, or even how it might tarnish your own reputation,” he said.

Smith and Tauss declined to comment for this article, and Deputy University Secretary Martha Highsmith, who oversees the YPD, could not be reached for comment.