Reports of rapes in area result in a safety seminar


Published: Friday, January 19, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 11:45 p.m.

A recent home invasion rape in the College Park neighborhood has worried local residents, so Gainesville police took a couple of hours Thursday night to offer advice on how residents can make themselves safer.

"We've had several robberies in the fall (in this neighborhood) along with the two sexual batteries in the last week," said Shannon Wallace-Giles, the community resource officer for District 3, where College Park is located. "We wanted to do something that would spark people's awareness."

About 50 people, many of them residents of the College Park neighborhood and most of them young women, attended a Crime and Safety Forum held at the United Church of Gainesville Thursday evening.

The attendees came armed with questions regarding a string of recent rapes, the most serious of which was the home invasion rape which took place Sunday when a college student told police an armed man broke into her home and raped her.

Officials are also investigating an alleged rape Tuesday at the Reserve at Kanapaha apartment complex, 4440 Archer Road. Two other cases of acquaintance rape in the College Park neighborhood have also been reported this week.

"There's nothing to indicate there's a man out here that is stalking women," Detective Ray Barber told one woman who asked about the rapes.

Capt. Ed Book, the commander of District 3, said the publicity of the rapes has raised an element of fear in the neighborhood, but he thinks that will be a good thing.

"That fear factor will hopefully make us take some precautions to prevent more people from becoming victimized," he said.

Wallace-Giles offered a list of various things residents can do to make their homes safer. Some of them were making sure doors and windows are locked and secure, slipping a dowel above sliding glass doors so they can't be lifted off the track and making sure all entrances are well-lit.

"Some of it may seem basic, but sometimes we make basic mistakes," Book said.

Wallace-Giles also cautioned the attendees to always be confident, be aware and be in control. She said drinking too much or hanging out with people you don't know can be invitations for crime.

"Have a presence about you that will help to lessen your chances of being victimized," Wallace-Giles said.

After speaking to residents for about an hour, Wallace-Giles led a walking tour through the College Park neighborhood, stopping to point out poorly lit doorways, abandoned buildings and other hazards that residents should be aware of.

Lynn LaBauve said she has lived in the neighborhood off and on since attending the university in the mid-1960s. She said it is an eclectic and friendly community that she hopes will stay that way.

"This is a good neighborhood," LaBauve said. "We're just trying to keep it safe."

Alice Wallace can be reached at 374-5036 or alice.wallace@gvillesun.com

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