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Monday, December 22, 2014

Gropings spark security hike

UNMPD brings patrols, hosts safety seminar

news@dailylobo.com

An unusually high frequency of sexual assaults on campus sparked UNMPD to implement increased safety measures at the University.

UNMPD held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to address concerns in the wake of two on-campus groping incidents within eight days. There, UNMPD Public Information Officer Lieutenant Robert Haarhues said officers planned to increase security on campus and add an email tip line.

The first incident was Jan. 27, when two men allegedly grabbed a female UNM student who was jogging at Johnson Field, then held her down and groped her under her clothes.

The second incident was Monday night. A man allegedly grabbed a female UNM student outside Castetter Hall and groped her over her clothes.

Haarhues said this wave of assaults was unusual for the University, especially because the two incidents appear to be unrelated.

“(UNMPD Chief Kathy Guimond) has been here for 15 years, and she can’t quite remember ever having a case like this,” Haarhues said.

Haarhues said at the conference that officers are unsure whether the suspects are students. He said police are checking surveillance footage from both locations for more information.

Haarhues said that as of Tuesday night, UNM will have more security on campus.

A local security vendor is providing this service, Haarhues said.
“Their only job is to patrol campus,” Haarhues said. “Nothing else.”

Haarhues said the UNMPD’s new email tip line is policetips@unm.edu. Anyone with information pertaining to these two incidents, or other on-campus crime, can email this address. Students with information may also call the UNMPD at (505) 277-2241.

Haarhues said he encourages students to take advantage of University security escort services if they need to travel around campus at night.

“It’s only a five to 10 minute wait for a security officer or police officer to come escort you,” Haarhues said. “And in light of this current situation, I would call for an escort.”

UNMPD did not send out a notification of the first alleged groping incident until the day after the incident was reported. When asked about the delay, Haarhues cited a need for accuracy before mass notification.

“We have to make sure that the information is factually correct before we send it out,” Haarhues said. “We have to talk to the patrol officer, the supervisor, and talk to the victim for the information in a way that would not retraumatize them.”

In a statement released at the press conference, UNM President Robert Frank and Guimond called the attacks “very disturbing for all of us” and said UNM will hold a public forum this Friday to discuss campus safety tips, safety planning and concerns related to the attacks.

The forum is open to the public.

University staff at the forum will include those from the office of the dean of students, Residence Life, the UNM Women’s Resource Center and the Agora Crisis Center. It will also feature a question-and-answer session by UNM emergency manager Byron Piatt on campus safety topics.