In response to student demands for a safer campus, Towson State University officials have beefed up security at two campus parking garages, while increasing the hours of a student escort service.
Officials also have begun to interview candidates to fill five vacancies on the campus police force to add foot patrols, said Kathy Williams, a spokeswoman.
Concerned about the rapes of two students in four months, university officials convinced the state to allow them to hire the extra police staff, despite a state hiring freeze.
Besides hiring the five sworn police officers, which will bring the force up to its assigned number of 33, Williams said officials will also hire five more police aides.
Police aides are unsworn officers akin to security guards, Williams said. Currently, there are three police aides. Starting this week, they have been assigned to patrol two parking garages on campus full time, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
It was from the top level of one of those two garages that a 20-year-old female student was abducted and raped Nov. 1 as she made her way to her car.
The victim was forced into her car at knifepoint, driven to a rural area and raped. The attacker left her, but returned her car to the garage.
The attack was the second in four months at the sprawling campus, where about 15,000 students attend classes each day. In July, a 21-year-old student was raped in her dormitory room.
No arrests have been made in either case.
Rachel Freedman, a 19-year-old sophomore and a leader in the student movement for a safer campus, said her group is pleased by the steps the administration has taken, but more needs to be done.
"It's a step in the right direction, definitely," she said.
Calling itself Towson Community United for Safety and Security, the group has issued a list of measures it wants the university to implement to increase safety.
Increased patrolling of the parking garage was one of those demands, as was the move to have the garages lighted 24 hours a day. Even during the day, the middle levels of the garages can be dim, students say.
Also in response to the students' wishes, the escort service will now run between 5 p.m. and 2 a.m. Students wishing a ride and escort to their class, dorm or car, can get one by dialing University Police at 830-2133 or at 440-2782, Williams said. Officials plan to add a second escort van, she said.
Other student requests include:
* Tighter security at campus dormitories. Although most dorms require either keys or electronic pass cards to enter, students say strangers still can follow students into the dorms. They want a system that would require each person entering a dorm to show an identification. Williams said officials are considering this step.
* Free self-defense classes. The first will be held in two weeks, Freedman said.
* The repair and replacement of burned-out campus lighting. Freedman said Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. officials have promised to regularly visit the campus to look for and repair burned-out lights.
* Students want the student bookstore to stock protective tear gas sprays.