Iowa City Police are hoping a more concentrated effort will help them solve a series of assaults on women near the University of Iowa campus. Department spokesman Sergeant Troy Kelsay says reports have piled up from women who say a man approached them and fondled them while they walked alone on their way back to campus.
Kelsay says after reviewing records back to the fall of last year, there are between two dozen and 30 reports that caught his attention. Kelsay says they’re seeing more assaults than they expect to see, and probably 50-percent of them follow the same pattern with the same general description of the attacker — which is pretty vague.
Kelsay says most of the cases involve a woman walking alone. He says the attacks take place a few blocks away from the downtown area where the lighting isn’t as good, or trees cast shadows. Kelsay says often the victim is talking on a cellphone or carrying something in her arms so she is occupied or distracted. Kelsay says fortunately the attacks for the most part have not been violent.
"The suspect has run up behind these people, sometimes he’s just in passing lifted up the skirt and fondled them or grouped them, but more often he’s pushed them up against a wall, or even in some of them, knocked them to the ground," Kelsay says, "there have been enough of these that have happened, that again on the surface, it certainly appears that there is a predator our there who is doing this all for the sake of fondling." Kelsay says the man runs away and doesn’t pursue the issue once the women object.
Kelsay says one of the problems thus far has been the incidents happen very quickly — and the women have not been able to give a real clear description of the attacker. And he says some of the victims have waited some time before reporting the attack.
Kelsay says short of re-interviewing the victim, there hasn’t been much for investigators to do as the attacks take just seconds. He says the victims have understandably been more concerned with getting away than getting a description or filing a report. Kelsay says they’re trying to get all areas of the department working together on the problem, and in the meantime, they’re giving women some advice.
"Don’t walk alone if you don’t have to," Kelsay says, "and if you do have to walk alone, still look for other options. You know what, call your friends, get them out of bed ask them to come pick you up. You’d do the same for them." He says you can spend a few dollars and take a taxi, and if you do have to walk alone, pick a route that is well lit and well traveled. Kelsay says they’re also stressing the importance of trying to get a good description of the attacker and reporting any incident as soon as possible.