Report of rape, sexual assaults shakes UM

Police say intruder may be last year's Peeping Tom

September 15, 2007|By Julie Bykowicz and Gadi Dechter | Julie Bykowicz and Gadi Dechter,Sun reporters

Reports yesterday of a rape and sexual assaults in a College Park neighborhood of sorority and fraternity houses renewed long-standing worries about safety at Maryland's flagship college campus.

Prince George's County police said they believe the same man might be responsible for two separate incidents early Thursday -- and that he also might be the Peeping Tom police were searching for last school year.

The University of Maryland held a safety forum yesterday afternoon and will have another one Monday.

The assaults happened between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., police said, with a man coming in through unlocked doors or windows of two homes in a neighborhood east of U.S. 1 and west of Paint Branch Parkway.

"As a woman on campus, I would never go there at night," said graduate student leader Laura Moore. "There's a history of unsafe activity in that area. College Park is not safe to begin with."

Between 4 a.m. and 4:50 a.m. at a home in the 4600 block of College Ave. -- a stretch lined with sorority houses -- a man crept in and kissed two sleeping 21-year-old women on their foreheads, said Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a county police spokesman. Then, police said, he raped a woman in the basement.

About a block away at 4:30 a.m. in the 7500 block of Dickinson Ave., a man crawled into bed with a 19-year-old and her boyfriend and began fondling the woman, Copeland said.

The woman at first thought her boyfriend was touching her, Copeland said, but then realized it was a stranger. The man ran off, and the couple called police, Copeland said.

The assaults at the sorority house were not reported until about 2 p.m., Copeland said. The women who were kissed have talked to police, but the woman who reported being raped has not cooperated with the investigation, Copeland said.

Police said they do not have a detailed description of a suspect.

Copeland said the man is likely either a Maryland student or someone familiar with the school schedule. Three incidents of voyeurism occurred in the same neighborhood in January, March and May, he said. Nothing similar was reported over the summer break, he said.

If the same person is responsible for these new incidents, Copeland said, police are particularly concerned about escalating criminal behavior.

"We are taking this very seriously," Copeland said. "Somebody knows this guy. Somebody lives with him or is a friend or a cousin."

Some students and parents said the sexual assault reports are a reminder of the dangers of College Park.

"The University of Maryland refuses to admit what they're dealing with. They cannot attract students if they admit it is an incredibly dangerous place," said the mother of a Class of 2007 graduate who was assaulted in July in an off-campus neighborhood popular with students.

"My daughter was strangled, nearly to death. She was able to fight it off," said the woman, who requested anonymity out of fear for her daughter's safety. Police in Hyattsville confirmed the details of the incident.

Student Lauren Korolevich, 21, said that she was the victim of a Peeping Tom on the other side of campus last year. She said she was sitting in her bedroom doing homework when she noticed a man staring at her through the window. She said he left less than a minute later and that she did not call the police.

She and a friend who were walking through the downtown College Park area last night said they wanted campus police to step up patrols, even in off-campus neighborhoods.

"There should be more security," Korolevich said.

UM student body president Andrew Friedson said students have been concerned about safety for years.

"Right now, understandably, I think a lot of people are nervous and scared," he said.

Of the neighborhood where the assaults were reported, he said, "I wouldn't want my friends to walk alone at night in that neighborhood."

But, he added, "students live there. That's close to campus. That's an area that we need to make sure is just as safe as on campus."

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com gadi.dechter@baltsun.com

Sun contributor Alia Malik reported from College Park.

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