Campus attacks spur Towson meeting

November 06, 1990|By Deborah I. Greene | Deborah I. Greene,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

In the wake of concern about two rapes within six months, Towson State University students and faculty yesterday proposed everything from keeping whistles and Mace on hand to ward off attackers to beefing up security with a campus-watch programs.

"Safety is a community problem," Chad Gobal, a sophomore member of the Student Government Association, told about 150 people gathered at the University Union to discuss campus security.

"But there's only so much one person can do. We all have to come together if we want to make this a safe place," he said.

The meeting was called in the wake of Thursday's incident in which a 20-year-old student was abducted at knifepoint from a campus parking garage, driven to a wooded area and raped. In July, an incoming freshman was raped in her room during orientation week.

Students and teachers proposed such precautions as walking only well-lighted paths at night and traveling in groups, and Mr. Gobal said the student government would soon begin handing out whistles women could use to call for help.

However, several in the group of mostly young women expressed concern that the student abducted Thursday had been alone when she was attacked.

"What good is a whistle when there is no one there to hear it?" asked Michele Nelson, a student.

"When is Towson State going to do its part? It's your responsibility to protect us," she said, confronting campus police Chief Stephen J. Murphy and Dorothy Siegel, a university dean.

One woman told the group she could have been attacked Thursday.

"I walked the same path that girl did. I was parked in the same garage on the same floor and I left a half an hour before she did," she said, declining to give her name for fear she would become the rapist's target.

While many agreed that students needed to work together to help the campus police force, others said that the university could do more.

Many of the women were surprised to learn, for instance, that an average of only three officers patrol the 328-acre campus during any given eight-hour shift. 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 and to fill the roster of nine budgeted police aides.

Some students said the university should loosen its purse strings even more and install electronic surveillance equipment, hire enough officers to patrol all garages and public buildings and upgrade the on-call van service that transports students around the campus at night.

"We can talk about all of that but nothing is going to be a cure-all. We are not magically immune from crime," Chief Murphy said. "Any security measure we put in place will be no insurance that the incident that happened last Thursday will not happen again," he added.

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