Archive for Monday, May 23, 2005

Unsolved rapes have residents uneasy

Safety a concern as Lawrence Police look for leads in two similar sexual assault cases

May 23, 2005


As the Kansas University semester ends, Lawrence Police are still looking for leads in two similar, unsolved rapes of young women that happened during the past two semester breaks.

In both cases, the suspect description is similar: a white male in his 20s with a slim build, about 6 feet tall. In both cases, the suspect entered the victims' dwellings early in the morning armed with a handgun, then escaped without being identified.

The most recent happened about 3:40 a.m. on Dec. 29. The suspect assaulted two women, ages 19 and 20. One was raped.

Police never said where that crime happened and will not confirm the location. But it's common knowledge among residents of Highpointe apartments, 2001 W. Sixth St., that the incident happened there.

Highpointe resident Elizabeth Cooper said she knows because police told her so. She said the management never notified her of the incident, but she learned it happened in a neighboring building after she spoke with a detective who'd left a business card in her door.

"He did definitely say that it happened here and that it was on one of the upper levels," she said.

Concerned residents

Cooper, 25, said that since learning of the rape, she's been keeping to herself more and has been less likely to open the door to strangers. She said she thought management should have done more to notify people of the crime, given that security was one of the complex's selling points.

"I was shocked that they didn't say anything," she said.

Randi Pounds, 20, who lives at Highpointe apartments, 2001 W. Sixth St., looks out a window at her complex. A young woman was raped at the complex during the last winter break, one of two unsolved rapes in the last year.

Randi Pounds, 20, who lives at Highpointe apartments, 2001 W. Sixth St., looks out a window at her complex. A young woman was raped at the complex during the last winter break, one of two unsolved rapes in the last year.

First Management Inc., which owns Highpointe, referred questions about the matter to Lawrence Police and said in a written statement, "Safety of our residents is always first at our properties."

Randi Pounds, a 20-year-old KU sophomore who lives at Highpointe, said that shortly after the attack she received a flier on her door telling her to be alert and to be careful to lock her apartment. She said she lives in the same building where the rape happened.

"I know a lot of people are kind of scared about it, and it kind of made them think more about locking their doors and windows and stuff like that," she said. "I guess it could happen anywhere."

No new information

The previous rape happened July 14, 2004, when a man entered a female KU student's unlocked residence about 3 a.m. Police said it happened in southwest Lawrence, but they never released the address or block number, saying it could identify the victim.

Sgt. Dan Ward, a Lawrence Police spokesman, said both cases remained under investigation. He reiterated that people should take basic safety steps such as locking doors and windows, but added there was no new information to release publicly about the crimes.

Crime Stoppers

The suspect was described as a white man in his 20s. He is 6 feet tall with a slim build. Anyone with information is asked to call the Crime Stoppers hot line at 843-TIPS.

He asked anyone with information about them to call the Lawrence Police Department at 841-7210 or the Crime Stoppers hot line at 843-TIPS.

Other cases

There have been at least two unsolved sexual assaults since fall 2003 against young women who were walking in the Oread neighborhood near campus.

Although rapes involving strangers often get more attention, 70 percent of female rape victims know their assailant, according to the Ga Du Gi SafeCenter, which offers the Rape Victim-Survivor Service in Lawrence.

Sarah Jane Russell, the agency's executive director, said her office sees a number of alcohol-related sexual-assault cases during summer months, as college-aged students do more partying. Russell said she wanted to be clear that she was not blaming victims by saying that.

"It's just that the whole culture of drinking lends itself to judgment errors," she said.

Russell said people who need help or know someone who needs help can call the Headquarters Counseling Center at 841-2345 - (888) 899-2345 from Baldwin - and ask for an advocate from her agency to be paged. People also can call 843-8985 during business hours.

Safety tips

At home:

¢ Use deadbolts, window locks, peepholes, and timers for lights, radio, the television and outside security lights.

¢ Never open a door to strangers; require ID of service or repair people.

¢ Plan several escape routes from your home

¢ If you are a single woman, use only initials on mailboxes and in the phone book. Pretend there are others at home if someone calls.

¢ If you come home and something looks wrong or different, do not enter; go to a safe place and call police.

On the street:

¢ Travel with others.

¢ Vary routines, go different ways at different times.

¢ Know where safe places are, including businesses that are open late, homes where people are up late, and blue phones on the KU campus.

¢ If the situation feels wrong, get away fast.

¢ Stay away from bushes and parked cars; walk in the center of the sidewalk.

In the car:

¢ Always lock the doors when you are in the car and when you leave it, even if only for a short time.

¢ Park near lights at night.

¢ Have keys in hand when leaving the building for your car or leaving the car for a building.

¢ Drive with windows mostly closed

¢ Keep your car in good working order and keep the gas tank at least one-quarter full.

¢ In case of a breakdown, stay in your locked car. If someone offers help, ask for the police to be called.

- Source: Lawrence Police Department

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