Fourth rape in four days reported to area police
Published: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 10:42 p.m.
Gainesville Police are investigating a report from a woman that she was raped by an acquaintance, the fourth reported case of sexual battery in four days in the county.
But officers stressed they have no evidence any of the cases are connected, although two of the victims told investigators a stranger attacked them at gunpoint and raped them inside their homes.
The cases have raised concern among area residents and officers. University of Florida Police released a statement urging students, faculty and staff to take safety precautions such as keeping doors and windows secure and staying away from isolated areas at night. Gainesville Police will be offering a residential safety seminar today in the College Park neighborhood, the same area where three of the reported rapes occurred.
Statistics, however, from both the Alachua County Sheriff's Office and the Gainesville Police Department don't indicate a spike in reported sexual battery cases for either agency.
The Sheriff's Office investigated 12 rape cases in January 2005 and 17 the next year, the agency reported. So far in January 2007, The Sheriff's Office has just five rape reports. Gainesville Police handled six cases during the same time frame in 2005 and seven the next year, according to the department. GPD doesn't have numbers available for 2007.
"The number seems to be consistent year to year," said police spokesman Sgt. Keith Kameg. But, he said, "The media and police are publicizing these cases more."
Officers have suspects in one case that occurred Sunday and another case reported Wednesday but no additional leads in two reported rapes involving a stranger.
In the four cases:
· A 21-year-old college student told Gainesville Police a man broke into her home in the student neighborhood north of campus early Sunday. Armed with a gun and wearing a ski mask, he tied her up, went through her belongings and raped her.
· Gainesville Police issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for Reginald Roy Phillips Jr., 23, of Haines City, who is accused of raping a 21-year-old college student at her home early Sunday. Officers allege Phillips, who had been allowed to stay at the home, entered the woman's bedroom while she was sleeping.
· A 21-year-old resident at the Reserve at Kanapaha, 4440 Archer Road, told Alachua County Sheriff's deputies she was walking her dog early Tuesday when a man, wearing a mask and armed with a gun, forced her into her apartment and raped her.
· Gainesville Police began investigating a report from a woman who claimed she was raped by an acquaintance in the College Park neighborhood early Wednesday. Additional details were not immediately available, but Kameg said investigators have spoken both with the woman and a possible suspect.
Focus on the sexual battery cases came after Gainesville Police sought news media attention over the weekend about the rapist who forced his way into a UF student's home.
Kameg said police went to the news media in hopes of getting a lead on the attacker or evidence in the case. The man is believed to have stolen green bedsheets from the woman's home that might have contained forensic evidence and might have thrown them away after fleeing from the woman's home.
"We were working against the clock," Kameg said. "We had to take the chance because it wasn't as if the suspect was going to hold (the bedsheets) in his arms for us."
Usually officers don't release details about rape cases because the nature of the investigation and laws about what information can be reported leave them with little to publicly report, Kameg said.
Often, most local rape cases involve an acquaintance, making it even more difficult for officers to report the allegation without identifying the victim. State law requires police to withhold identification of rape victims.
Officers believe it is a coincidence that so many rape cases have been reported in such a short time, three from one Gainesville neighborhood and two on the same day. Still, officers hope the increased attention may not only lead to evidence and tips but also to enhanced awareness among the public about these kind of cases.
"We focus a tremendous amount of resources on publicizing these in hopes that it will help someone else," Kameg said.
Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or email@example.com.
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