University of South Carolina president targets violent crime outbreak

dprice@thestate.comFebruary 20, 2013 

South Carolina University president Harris Pastides

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

— After the third violent crime reported around the University of South Carolina’s campus in a week, school president Harris Pastides sent a letter to students, faculty and staff promising continued vigilance against crime.

The letter was sent about a day after the most recent incident, in which a woman was sexually assaulted and robbed while walking on campus, and announces the addition of six new campus police officers and promises more officers in the future as part of a three-year hiring program. The university also will make additional investments in technology and other tools to deter crime, Pastides writes.

“I am outraged that our campus has fallen victim to senseless violence and I assure each of you that I will do all that I can to continue to make this campus safe for students, faculty and staff,” Pastides wrote.

In the letter, Pastides said he will speak with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin about crime on campus, and that he has already spoken with Columbia Police Department officials to “step-up ... ongoing collaborations with the city.”

Currently, the Columbia Police Department and the university’s law enforcement division have a mutual aid agreement to share information and resources. The university usually handles all incidents on campus, including on-campus roads, but Columbia police will patrol near campus and assist as calls come in. The university’s police force also helps city police in patrols in the neighboring Five Points district.

There have been three instances of violent crime in the past week. Tuesday, a woman was walking in the 1400 block of Blossom Street near the East Quad Residence Hall about 1 a.m. when a man approached and sexually assaulted her. After the assault, he took her wallet and phone and left the area.

The woman didn’t see a weapon but thought the assailant was armed, according to a campus alert. It is unknown if the victim was a student.

And last week, two armed robberies were reported on campus. In the first, on Wednesday night, a male and female student were walking on Sumter Street near Greene Street when a man in a red four-door sedan stopped beside them. A suspect in the car pointed a gun and told the two to put their wallets on the ground. The man then took the wallets and got back into the car’s passenger’s seat before the vehicle left the area.

Just after midnight Friday, another student walking on Pickens Street was similarly approached by a red car. In that incident, the suspect got out of the car and pointed a gun at the student. Meanwhile, a second suspect sitting in the car’s back seat told him to throw his wallet in the car. After the robbery, the suspects left the area in the car.

The university is asking students to take precautions late at night, a spokesman said. USC offers late-night shuttle services around campus throughout the week and has hundreds of emergency call boxes placed around campus. Students are also advised to travel in groups on well-lit and well-traveled areas if walking. .

If you know anything about the incidents, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC or www.sccrime stoppers.com.

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