U.Va. Addresses Increased Criminal Activity Against Students

To students, staff and faculty:

As you are aware, there have been a number of criminal incidents against University students in recent weeks. Most -- although not all -- have occurred between midnight and daybreak at or near the Corner or in neighborhoods adjacent to the University in which many of our students live.

We are all very concerned by the number of incidents and by the proximity to the Grounds, although we are encouraged by the fact that students are reporting incidents more often and more quickly.

This fall, the victims of these incidents are mostly women walking alone. Obviously, walking only in groups may help deter someone who is intent on doing harm.

University Police continue to encourage anyone who is involved in an incident or anyone who witnesses an incident to immediately call 911. The sooner you do that, the better the chances that the perpetrator will be apprehended.

President Sullivan has asked me to review the University's safety procedures with an eye toward enhancing what we already have in place as well as adding new safety measures.
I write to inform you of some of the additional steps we are taking.

  * Increased police patrols. The University of Virginia Police and the Charlottesville City Police together routinely patrol the areas contiguous to central Grounds. In the past several weeks, both police departments have increased the number of uniformed and plainclothes officers in these areas, especially during weekends. The University has also increased patrols on Grounds.
  * SafeRide. The good news is that students are relying heavily on SafeRide to get them home, especially during the weekend. Unfortunately, the high use has affected SafeRide's efficiency. To help keep up with the demand, we are implementing a number of important changes beginning next Thursday, Oct. 28. They include doubling the number of people who answer SafeRide phones and increasing the number of phone lines from two to five.
SafeRide operates Sunday through Thursday, midnight to 7 a.m. and on Friday and Saturday, 2:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. To contact Safe Ride, call 434-242-1122. Or to learn more, visit here.
  * University Transit System. To relieve some of the pressure on SafeRide, we will begin a pilot program Thursday, Oct. 28, to extend late-night bus service to Thursdays through the end of this semester.  This means that bus service will be provided on the Northline and Outer U-Loop from 12:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Once the new UTS extended hours have been established for Thursday nights, SafeRide's Thursday night hours will change to 2:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.
  * University Security and General Safety Committee. This committee regularly addresses safety issues on the Grounds. Most recently, the committee took steps to improve lighting around Kellogg Residence Hall after students reported concerns about dimly lit areas. If you identify an area of concern, you should e-mail Marge Sidebottom, who chairs the committee, at uvaoep@virginia.edu and she will check it out.
  * Rape Aggression Defense Class. The University of Virginia Police Department is hosting self-defense classes for women beginning Nov. 9 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the North Grounds Recreation Center. The rest of the classes will run the next three Tuesday evenings. This is an empowerment-based course designed to counter the notion that women are defenseless against an attacker. For more information or to register, contact Melissa Fielding at fielding@virginia.edu.
The University Police Department offers seminars, self-defense classes, building security evaluations and other special safety programs on a daily basis. Please take advantage of this valuable resource in learning how to prevent crime in our community.
We will continue to monitor safety at the University and hope that each of you will help in this endeavor by staying aware of your environment, reporting any suspicious behavior and traveling in groups.

While Charlottesville is a relatively safe area, there are many who find the openness of a college campus an easy target. I urge you to take responsibility for your own safety, to look out for the safety of your friends and classmates and to immediately call 911 if you are feeling threatened.
If you have concerns about safety on the Grounds or ideas on how to make things better, please feel free to contact me directly. The University is committed to doing all it can to making the Grounds as safe as possible, but we need your help.
Leonard W. Sandridge

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Sandridge approved distribution of this message.