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Advice on avoiding assaults

Mihir Zaveri speaks to both UCPD and BPD about what people can do to avoid sexual assaults.

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Students and police are intensifying their efforts to curb what officials are calling an unusual string of sexual assaults being reported on the Southside of campus.

Police released a sketch yesterday of the man they suspect to be responsible for a series of assaults in which 12 women have reported being attacked.

The victims have generally reported that the suspect approached them from behind, lifted their skirts and attempted to-and sometimes did­-penetrate them with his finger. The latest reported incident occurred Friday on the 2100 block of Haste Street at 1 a.m., according to Berkeley police.

The series is unusual because it has been focused in one area and carried out in a pattern, according to police. In addition, both Berkeley and UC police noted that the incidents will contribute to a major spike in the number of reported sexual assaults in Berkeley.

"It is unusual to have a series with this many incidents," said UCPD Lt. Doug Wing.

In 2007, UCPD received only two reports of sexual assault, six in 2006 and five in 2005, according to Wing. Numbers for 2008 are not yet available. This string of assaults, which spans from September to this month, also marks a major jump in the typical number of reported sexual assaults in the city of Berkeley, said Berkeley police Officer Andrew Frankel.

Wing said UCPD is stepping up efforts to inform Southside residents of the assaults and publicize preventative measures that can be taken.

"We're doing as much outreach as we can, especially now that we have the composite sketch," Wing said.

Seven of the twelve victims were assaulted after leaving fraternity parties, according to Frankel, who noted that the crimes have been clustered in the blocks near Piedmont Avenue and Channing Way.

In light of the high frequency of assaults occurring on Southside late at night, both Wing and Frankel said police are working with the Greek system.

Panhellenic Council President Christie Richards said she has been coordinating efforts among the sororities to encourage women to take preventative measures, such as wearing pants rather than skirts.

The council is also working with fraternities through the Interfraternity Council to encourage men to walk women home at night.

Berkeley police have increased patrols in the area and have been canvassing with a sketch of the suspect, hoping to prevent further assaults and lead to an arrest.

Police are asking anyone with information to call 510-981-5735. BearWALK is continuing to operate normal hours, but police recommend women walk in groups with men and avoid wearing skirts between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2:30 a.m.

Some students said that while it makes sense to take precautions, it should not be solely up to women to change their behavior in the situation.

"It's totally sexist, blaming the person that's being affected," said senior Christie Santos. "(The police) framed it as if the frat guys should protect the sorority girls."


Contact Mihir Zaveri at [email protected]

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