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Does UNMPD do enough to prevent sexual harassment?

In recent weeks, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of reported sexual harassment incidents on campus, which has some begging the question: Is UNM police doing enough to protect students?

“I think they need to have more patrols,” Mary Martinez, a junior biology major, said. “You hardly ever see them and it’s very unfortunate that these incidents have to happen for them to notice. They’re usually not here in the evenings, which really sucks. It’s kind of scary walking around campus and you don’t see any of them in sight.”

There have been three sexual harassment incidents on or near main campus warranting a LoboAlert since July 30, including one on Friday morning.

UNMPD Public Information Officer Lt. Tim Stump said the police force constantly does all it can to prevent harassment of any kind at the University, with a comprehensive process that begins right when the first call is made.

“Any call we respond to is handled based on the information we receive at the time,” Stump said.

He said the first priority is always getting medical assistance to survivors. Additionally, an advocate from the Rape Crisis Center is assigned to help in the short- and long-term.

The investigation of individual incidents is handled by a Sexual Misconduct/Assault Response Team (SMART) detective, who also assists the victim in any way they can.

He said the best thing people can do to prevent sexual harassment is keep their eyes open, and to realize that time is of the essence.

“Students have to be aware and cautious of their surroundings,” Stump said. “If you’re a victim or a witness, get the best description you possibly can and call UNMPD immediately. If an alert goes out, pay attention to it. If you locate someone matching their description, call us immediately.”

Lilly Diamond, a UNM alum with a daughter currently enrolled, said the high frequency of reported sexual harassment incidents in recent weeks have her concerned, and have prompted her to communicate with UNMPD Chief of Police Kevin McCabe.

“I’ve been on the LoboAlerts since they’ve started it, and I’ve never seen this many in such a short period of time,” she said. “I’m very surprised that there hasn’t been more of a face of the UNMPD on campus since things have started.”

Diamond said when it comes to the UNMPD’s list of concerns, it is clear to her what should be at the top.

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“It should be their top priority to have a huge presence on campus, it should be their number one priority. All students are walking on campus, and having the police cars drive around Redondo can only do a small amount,” she said.

Stump said UNMPD does in fact have a uniform presence on campus, made up of 40 officers. The time at which the highest number of officers are deployed is from early morning until later afternoon on Monday through Friday.

“Officers regularly conduct foot patrol and bike patrol. Proactively we utilize the media to inform the public. Foot patrols are more directed to areas of occurrence to hopefully divert a repeat incident,” he said.

But that number doesn’t satisfy some students, including Martinez.

“They should probably do some sort of involvement with APD, and have some sort of contract with them, because that is not enough,” she said.

There may be an explanation as to why there is an increase in the number of reported incidents, and it suggests that they actually aren’t occurring at a higher frequency as of late.

“The number of reports of gropings on and near campus has increased, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the number of gropings has increased,” said Dianne Anderson, director of university communication. “What we may be seeing is that women are now more likely to report these types of incidents because they recognize that the University is doing something about them.”

Anderson cited the LoboRESPECT initiative and its soon-to-open advocacy center, revised New Student Orientation presentations on sexual assault and LoboAlerts with suspect descriptions, among other things, as proactive steps that the University is taking to educate students about what to do when they may be witnessing sexual harassment.

“We expect the number of reports of cases to go up as that information resonates with students,” she said.

With regards to the most recent string of incidents, Stump said there is no discernible pattern or connection. However, he said that UNMPD’s chances of catching suspects increase greatly when they do get the exposure on social media, such as the sharing of information from LoboAlerts.

“Officers caught the last individual due to foot patrols and the alerts that were put out [which] helped identify the suspect,” he said. “This was a great example of how the community worked together to apprehend a suspect.”

David Lynch is the news editor at The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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