Towson campus ponders safety, security in wake of daytime rape of student

November 03, 1990|By Robert A. Erlandson

A mood of apprehension and fear enveloped the Towson State University campus yesterday in the wake of the second rape of a student in less than six months -- this one after an abduction in daylight.

The victim, a 20-year-old commuter student, was confronted in the new Towsontown garage on campus at midday Thursday, forced at knifepoint to drive to wooded area 20 miles away in Baltimore County, then raped and abandoned.

Students who gathered yesterday at the University Union PTC building held mixed views on whether the university has enough security and what might be improved. They called for full-time guards at campus garages and more escort vans to transport students at night.

There has been increased awareness on campus -- including crime-watch systems in dorms -- since a freshman was raped in her room during orientation in July, so students were stunned by a second incident, especially one that occurred in the daytime.

"That shows it could happen anywhere. I'm thinking about getting a Mace canister for my key chain," said Kelly Sheppard, a senior who commutes from Perry Hall. "I used to walk on campus at night, and never thought about it. I never felt scared before, but now I do."

"I never walk alone on campus at night," said Angela Young, a sophomore who lives on campus.

A young man who identified himself only as "Rob," also a dorm resident, said female friends frequently asked him to escort them at night. Students are apprehensive, he said, "but what can they do, unless they secure this place with technical equipment?"

The university will hold an open student meeting at 3 p.m. Monday in the University Union to address the concerns. Campus police, administrators and counselors will attend the session.

The rapist, described as a white man about 22, of medium build and with light brown hair, wearing blue jeans and a light blue oxford shirt, drove the woman to a wooded area near Falls and Mount Zion roads, where the rape occurred.

The man, who wore no mask or gloves, apparently returned the woman's blue 1980 Chevrolet Chevette to the garage. County police examined it yesterday for fingerprints and other physical evidence.

E. Jay Miller, county police spokesman, declined to disclose whether evidence was found in the car or at the rape scene.

University police also began working with the victim on a composite drawing of the rapist, which was not completed last night, and the woman's clothing will be sent to state police for analysis.

University police Chief Stephen J. Murphy said all leave has been canceled and officers are working overtime to patrol the 320-acre, 15,000-student campus. He stressed that the campus is not immune to crime and that "individual awareness" is important.

Three weeks ago, despite a hiring freeze at Towson State, Chief Murphy was authorized to hire five more officers to bring the campus force up to its full 33-member strength, said Don McCulloh, vice president for business and finance.

Chief Murphy said he expects to have the officers on duty in a few weeks.

In addition, Mr. McCulloh said he has authorized Chief Murphy to fill the roster of the nine budgeted police aides and intends to ask for additional, contractual aide positions "to in

crease the police profile on campus."

The unarmed aides relieve officers from traffic and parking enforcement duties to enhance officers' patrol capability, Mr. McCulloh said, but as uniformed officials they also provide a "visual deterrent."

Since 1985, the university has operated an on-call van service to transport students around the campus at night. There were 2,394 service calls in September, which could justify asking for at least one more van, Mr. McCulloh said.

In addition, he said, students can ask campus police for an escort to their cars.

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