FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Colorado State University is reminding students about a string of recent off-campus assaults as they enter fall break and more down time around Fort Collins.
Police believe a single suspect is responsible for at least seven recent assaults on women. In each case, the women were traveling by themselves at night. None of the victims were seriously injured but the bulk of them happened in an area that borders the west side of campus.
The victims described the suspect as a hispanic man in his 30s or 40s, who is less than six feet tall, with short or shaved hair.
CSU students, many of whom live in the area of the assaults, received an email from the CSU Public Safety on Friday. The message reminded students of available security services and offered tips for remaining safe around town (see below to read the entire message).
“I get scared myself, just walking by myself,” said Jazlyn Martinez, a CSU sophomore.
Though she has just two short blocks to get home from her job, Martinez says she tries to protect herself by being aware of her surroundings and keeping her phone in hand.
“I call my mom sometimes too, and I’m like, ‘Mom, talk with me until I get to my door,’” Martinez said.
On Monday morning another female reported an assault at the Ram Crossing West Apartments. Police have not connected the latest assault to the others but CSU public safety addressed the larger safety issue. It's something Martinez appreciates, especially since she and many other students will be spending their fall break in Fort Collins.
“The university stepping in helps out," She said. "They raise awareness. You always have to make sure to be aware of these things and have each others backs.”
CSU sent the following e-mail to students and staff:
As most of you are well aware from our previous emails and area news reports, the Fort Collins Police and Larimer County Sheriff are actively investigating a series of attacks that have occurred off campus over the last several months. While none of these attacks have happened at CSU, our community has nonetheless been impacted – and such incidents create real tension and fear over personal safety and security.
We are writing today simply to reiterate that this case is receiving the full attention and focus of area law enforcement. Although this is not a CSUPD investigation, our campus force has been closely involved in working with local authorities – and we can attest to the seriousness and deep concern with which local police are pursuing this matter. This is a series of what appear to be random crimes of opportunity impacting our entire Fort Collins community, not just the student population, and solving it is an extremely high priority.
At the same time, we know that this reassurance only goes so far and can ring a little hollow. We all want more information than we have, and more than the police are able to share without jeopardizing their investigation. The truth is that what we all really want to know is just that a suspect is in custody. Short of that, there isn’t much that any of us can say that will really address the fears and anxieties we face.
But it is worth reiterating at every opportunity that this university places very high priority on the right to work, study, and live without fear of violence and personal attack. This is and should be an expectation of all members of our campus community, and incidents that impede our ability to feel safe, to succeed, and to fully engage in the life of our university cannot be tolerated.
We cannot eliminate the reality of crime and criminal behavior from this or any community. But we can take measures, personally and together, to heighten our common safety and reduce risk of harm to any one of us. In that spirit, we want to once again share the following information:
* One of our greatest safety assets at CSU is the longstanding SafeWalk program, and more and more people are taking advantage of this option for a safe escort home, across campus, or to a vehicle.
It operates daily from dusk to dawn seven days a week at no charge to any of us. Call (970) 491-1155 to arrange a SafeWalk.
* Some women who bike to campus have also expressed concern about the risk of riding after dark and having to stop at stop signs and lights. SafeWalk will now also provide safe transit home for bicyclists who don’t want to ride in the dark – just contact SafeWalk and they will work with you on a safe transportation solution. MAX and Transfort can also accommodate bikes.
* Speaking of bikes, our campus bicycle enforcement team focuses on bicycle safety and working to prevent collisions among different types of vehicles and pedestrians. With the early sunsets, they often may be working in the dark and stopping bicyclists who, justifiably, may be nervous about being approached. Here are important points to remember about our bike officers: They all wear clearly identifiable uniforms that are easily visible at night, and they will always identify themselves when requesting a stop. One thing we do know about this recent series of attacks is that they have all involved a sole perpetrator and a sole victim. Our bike officers, on the other hand, always work in pairs. In almost all cases, they won’t initiate a bicycle stop in an unlit area, for their own safety and that of the person they’re stopping.
* Instead of walking across campus after dark, students and staff are encouraged to use the Around the Horn campus shuttle, which runs around campus every 10 minutes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
* It’s important that we all have an opportunity to talk through fears and concerns in a safe environment. Our Employee Assistance Program and the University Counseling Center are both available around the clock to listen and offer counsel on dealing with the complex emotions that such crimes bring up. The Women and Gender Advocacy Center can also be an exceptional resource. These are resources we all have access to as members of the CSU community, and they can be particularly helpful in times like this.
* In addition, please heed the standard safety tips below:
o Keep your doors and windows locked when your home or residence hall room is unattended. Keep your curtains drawn for privacy.
o Report to police anyone who is behaving suspiciously by calling 911 from campus to reach CSUPD, or 911 off campus to reach Fort Collins Police Services.
o In all situations, be aware of your surroundings and the people you are with, and leave a situation if it is making you uncomfortable.
o Take care of yourself and others. Make sure someone knows where you’ll be and who you’ll be with. Trust your instincts. When you feel uneasy, get out of the situation immediately and help friends who also may need to get out of a situation.
o Consider using the buddy system and travel in groups. It is also a good idea to carry a cell phone, stick to well-traveled areas and carry a flashlight after dark.
This series of attacks notwithstanding, Fort Collins remains a relatively safe environment in which to live and work, and the CSU campus itself is just as safe, if not even more so because of the resources we have available. We will continue to update the campus as more information about these incidents becomes available, and we also encourage people to use the safety.colostate.edu site for information and guidance on available resources.
Best wishes for a safe and healthy holiday.
The CSU Public Safety Team