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UCSF Addresses Concerns Following Sexual Assault on Mission Bay Campus

By Lisa Cisneros

UCSF Police Chief Pamela Roskowski led a two-hour town hall meeting on Wednesday to inform the campus community about ongoing efforts to prevent crime at UCSF following the Nov. 1 sexual assault of a student at the Mission Bay campus. About 50 men and women, who gathered in Rock Hall on the Mission Bay campus, heard an update on the case, an overall report on crime at UCSF, and recent and recommended improvements in security to better protect the campus community. The student, who was not identified to protect her privacy, was sexually assaulted by a suspect whom she described as a Hispanic man in his 30s. Both had exited the Muni Third Street Light Rail at the UCSF Mission Bay station in the early morning hours following Halloween night. The woman was trying to enter the Mission Bay housing complex at the east courtyard gate when she was assaulted by the suspect, who then quickly fled the scene, according to UCSF police. The UCSF Police Department's Investigations Unit is working with the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Sex Offender Unit as well other lay enforcement agencies to determine whether the suspect's profile matches any in their crime databases. In addition, UCSF police are examining video surveillance footage from cameras posted around the campus and inside the Muni train and on the platform. Several graduate students and postdoctoral scholars voiced frustration that they were unaware of the sexual assault and only learned about it through word of mouth. Roskowski admitted that the UCSF Police Department experienced some glitches with the Safety and Security listserv when trying to email the crime alert about the incident to the entire campus community. Roskowski said the police department is working to improve the notification system. She said that the crime alert was sent out twice by UCSF police and the School of Medicine also assisted by sending the alert to its students. Roskowski added that UCSF Today also posted announcements about the incident and the town hall meeting. Roskowski, who spent years as a sex crime investigator prior to joining UCSF, said the UCSF Police Department has made the sexual assault case a high priority and is following any and all leads to locate and arrest the suspect. Making Improvements to Security Following the Nov. 1 assault, UCSF police took some short-term steps to improve safety, including assigning a temporary security guard to work from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. near the Third Street entrance to the Mission Bay campus. Roskowski said that the police department will request that this position be made permanent, but that the funding for that position must be reviewed and approved by campus leadership. Other short-term steps taken to improve safety include increasing police bicycle patrols and visibility around the Mission Bay campus and inspecting the security around the Muni station. Next, the police department will form a public safety advisory board and make more coordinated crime prevention outreach improvements, Roskowski reported. Even before the incident, Roskowski said the police department has been collaboratively working with student leaders to address their concerns. Over the longterm, she said, UCSF police will work for ongoing financial support for the security guard service near the Mission Bay housing complex and Muni station, analyze the need and make the case for more police officers, and post signage near panic alarms and campus entrances. The most ambitious recommendation calls for building a police substation across from the Mission Bay housing complex. Such a facility fits into a category called critical infrastructure, which means it must be built to higher seismic safety standards, Roskowski explained, adding that she hopes UCSF will break ground on the station next year. 7 Some members of the audience questioned the funding issue implying that safety and security should be a top priority. One man said that the University must have enough money, judging by the quality of the public art around the campus. He suggested that UCSF sell one of sculptures to pay for a security guard. Jon Gledhill, director of UCSF Transportation Services, also talked about some changes in service. A shuttle provides on-demand service weekdays from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., except when making trips to Parnassus Heights at 10:30 p.m. and 11:20 p.m. In any case, Gledhill noted, members of the campus community can always call the UCSF police dispatch number (415/476-1414) to find out when the nighttime shuttle will be arriving, to avoid waiting around the shuttle stop at night. Similarly, people can call 311 to find out when the next Muni bus or train will arrive. In addition, Gledhill noted that an interim taxi voucher program would be instituted at Mission Bay for students that would cover time when the local shuttle extended service to Parnassus (from 10:30 p.m. to midnight) and also provide service extension beyond the current 12:30 a.m. service end time. Details about this interim taxi voucher program will be provided shortly, Gledhill said. As for parking, Gledhill noted that UCSF is offering discounted rates to students. For $49 a month, students can park on the upper floors of the Third Street parking garage and for $13 a month, they can park at night and on weekends by acquiring a Mission Bay evening parking permit. Additional parking is available on surface lots on weekdays from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. and anytime on weekends and University holidays from the flat rate of $1.50 per day. Parking garages also have video surveillance cameras. When asked who monitors the video cameras, Roskowski noted that security guards do watch video screens at their stations, along with their other duties. The Parnassus Heights Security Work Group has recommended that camera monitoring be centralized and that UCSF should install an upgraded video surveillance system to allow for motion detection to trigger a guard's attention to a particular area. Such systems are in place at other universities, including John Hopkins and University of Pennsylvania, Roskowski noted. Indeed, Barbara Jones, director of campus Housing Services, acknowledged that Housing Services will upgrade 12 of the existing 16 video cameras placed in and around the housing complex at Mission Bay and add 11 new cameras. When initially installed, the cameras were standard issue, but today's cameras now provide higher-resolution images. UCSF is also installing new lighting fixtures around the Third Street campus entrance and is hiring new part-time, live-in building managers to assist tenants. Responding to Crime at UCSF The sexual assault on Nov. 1 is one of several serious crimes that has occurred on the UCSF Mission Bay campus, which now includes a fully occupied housing complex, three research buildings, a community center, child care center, a few retail services and two parking garages. Overall, the UCSF Police Department has seen a 23.3 percent increase in calls for assistance in fiscal year 2006-2007 as compared with the previous year, Roskowski noted. Of the 54,065 calls for assistance, 47,289 required UCSF police investigations. That equates to an average of 130 incidents investigated by the UCSF police every day, she said. During fiscal year 2006-2007, 456 major felony crimes were investigated by UCSF police. This felony crime category includes robbery, burglary, larceny, arson, aggravated assault and motor vehicle theft -- as well as murder and forcible rape, neither of which have occurred at UCSF in recent years. With the growth of the Mission Bay campus, UCSF police now are responsible for patrolling more than 330 sites overall, where the average daily population numbers about 33,000 people. The Parnassus campus, which has 16,000 faculty, staff, students, trainees and patients, receives the most calls for service, about 57 percent. Mission Bay, which has a population of 3,300, receives 23 percent, and all other sites account for 20 percent of the calls, according to UCSF police. Interestingly, however, Mission Bay has a higher per capita calls for service than Parnassus Heights, about 3.8 versus 1.9 respectively, Roskowski explained. When compared with the areas within a one-mile radius surrounding Mission Bay, however, the UCSF campus remains a "safe haven," Roskowski said. When looking at a snapshot of crimes committed in the last 90 days, the off-campus Mission Bay neighborhood experienced a total of 831 crimes, the most being cases of larceny or theft (492) and the least being sex offense cases (6), Roskowski noted. Crime statistics for each city neighborhood are available on the SFPD website. Among the resources available to the campus community are those provided by Student Health Services, the Faculty & Staff Assistance Program and the Center for Gender Equity (CGE). In fact, CGE is offering a three-hour self-defense course for women on Saturday, Dec. 8, says Mijiza M. Sanchez, assistant director of CGE, who leads the Sexual and Relationship Violence Initiative. "It is crucial for women to have the basic skill set to be able to defend themselves," Sanchez said. "It is also important to just be aware of your surroundings."