UAA police, students react to sexual assault near campus
As soon as University of Alaska Anchorage police learned of a sexual assault on a trail bordering campus late last Wednesday night, they sent out an alert via text message and email, warning students of the attack. Nearly a week later, no arrests have been made, and the attack still weighs on the minds of some students.
“We discuss, isn’t that kind of scary? Like, that happened. We’re thankful it’s nobody we know, but we feel like, we think about these people. We feel bad for them,” said UAA student Makenna Wyatt.
UAA police were the first to respond to the call for help the night of the attack. Once it became clear the victim wasn’t a student, the investigation was turned over to the Anchorage Police Department. UAA Police Chief Rick Shell says the two departments work closely together.
“Certainly the assaults and some of these things that have occurred on our borders are some of those things that these students have anxiety over and we help deal with that,” Shell said.
Chief Shell says their department currently has 13 officers. They patrol the campus in cars, on bikes and by foot. And, since the attack last week, he says they’re hitting the pavement more often.
“We’re just like any other police department, just a little more compact,” Shell said.
Shell says they’re hoping students keep their eyes and ears open when walking or traveling on campus. He recommends students remove ear buds, walk in pairs or groups and if they do have to walk alone, call a friend and let them know where they are, where they’re going and keep the phone on speaker if possible.
UAA student Rebecca Anderson says she’s paying attention to the warnings.
“I have pepper spray on my keychain. I just park under lights and I figure out good class times that I can either walk out with a friend, or either, just stay safe,” Anderson said.
With more than 15,000 students and another 2,000-plus staff members, UAA police have their work cut out for them. Fortunately, Chief Shell says violent crimes like this latest attack are rare. He says students are much more likely to be the victims of theft, as those occur regularly on campus.
As for the investigation into the sexual assault last week, APD says they’re working on putting together a sketch of the suspect. The victim, who is not a UAA student, told police she met her attacker before the attack, and he had offered her a place to sleep for the night. Police say the victim is not from Anchorage, and believed the man was leading her to his house when he wandered into the woods near the campus. After he assaulted the woman, he fled the scene.
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