The Berkeley Police Department is looking for a man reported to have sexually assaulted a woman in her 30s early Sunday morning not far from the UC Berkeley campus.
According to a notice released by the department Wednesday evening, the assault took place just after 2 a.m. Sunday.
The woman told police she had been walking alone on a side street west of the 2300 block of Telegraph Avenue, just south of the University of California at Berkeley campus, when she was attacked from behind by an unknown man.
He “knocked her to the ground, committed a sexual assault, and fled the area,” police said.
Police described the man as mixed-race, in his 30s and 6 feet tall. He had a muscular to heavy build, short hair, and was wearing a jacket.
Police said investigators are actively working the case: reviewing evidence, seeking witnesses and searching for additional evidence.
Patrol officers “are aware of the incident and providing extra patrols in the area,” according to the notification, which was sent out via the Nixle crime alert service. (Learn how to sign up for Nixle alerts online; read more about Nixle on Berkeleyside.)
Berkeley Police also shared information about the investigation with the UC Berkeley Police Department.
Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats said police could release no additional information about the type of assault committed, the man’s complexion, or whether there are security cameras in the area that might shed light on what took place.
Police ask anyone with information about the incident to call the department’s Special Victims Unit at 510-981-5715, or its non-emergency number at 510-981-5900. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can reach Bay Area Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477).
According to CrimeMapping.com, a data service that collects information from local police agencies, there have been 59 sexual assaults in Berkeley since Jan. 1. Of those, 48 were reported to the Berkeley Police Department, and 11 were reported to UCPD. The most recent incident has not yet been listed.
Approximately 30 of those incidents took place within five blocks of the UC Berkeley campus.
Of the incidents reported to the Berkeley Police Department, at least 33 were listed as felonies, and 14 as misdemeanors. UCPD does not distinguish between those types of assaults on CrimeMapping.
This year’s total, as listed on CrimeMapping, is significantly higher than the rapes reported to the Berkeley Police Department in the first half of 2012 and 2013. In both years, police said 18 rapes were reported from January through June.
It was not immediately clear whether all 48 of the sexual assaults reported to the Berkeley Police would be classified as rape; Berkeleyside has requested additional information from the Berkeley Police Department and will update this story when that information is provided.
UCPD data were not available at the time of this report, but Berkeleyside has requested it from the department.
Sexual assaults have been of particular concern in recent years in Berkeley after an annual crime analysis by the Berkeley Police Department showed that the number of reported rapes citywide — not including UCPD data — increased from 20 overall in 2011 to 39 in 2012. They dropped to 29 in 2013, according to preliminary data presented in March, but are still higher than in recent years prior.
A report by Berkeley’s police chief about crime in 2012 noted that “stranger rapes” continued to be a “rare occurrence” in Berkeley, and that officers had begun “conducting additional sexual assault awareness and prevention training … with key stakeholders” to try to address the increase from the prior year. Officers planned to focus special attention on students around campus, as many of the reports were clustered in that area.
A Berkeley Police Department crime assessment in 2013 found that all rapes reported in the first half of that year involved an acquaintance, and that alcohol was present in many of the cases.
Berkeley Police officials noted in early 2013 that the increase in reported incidents could potentially be a positive sign, showing that outreach and awareness efforts are paying off, and that more survivors are feeling empowered to come forward to speak out about assaults. Additionally, officials noted, the number of sexual assault reports overall is so small that it can be difficult to draw accurate trend conclusions from the data.
This year, the Berkeley Police Department has continued to work with the University of California to increase sexual assault awareness through outreach efforts. In his annual crime report, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said there had been “no unusual series” of rapes, and that, as is generally the case, “Nearly all reported rapes and attempted rapes involved an acquaintance of some type, either recently introduced or previously known to the victim.”
Cal sexual assault policies and procedures under federal review
The UC Berkeley Police Department collects crime statistics separately and the accuracy of its numbers is questionable. According to federal data, the university reported one rape in 2009, none in 2010 and seven in 2011. A department spokesman said last fall that there were six sexual assaults to campus police in 2012. Federal data for 2013 is not yet available.
But the way many universities and colleges around the country handle sexual assault reports, data and investigations has been increasingly called into question, and is now the subject of a federal probe. Student advocates against sexual violence have helped drive a movement that has resulted in policy changes and continues to develop.
Last year, state legislators announced plans to audit sexual assault policies and procedures at Cal and three other state schools. The decision came after a group of nine students at UC Berkeley “filed a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education that alleged the school had inadequately investigated their sexual assaults,” wrote the LA Times.
The students filed a second federal complaint in February, according to the Bay Area News Group, and alleged that “Cal violated federal anti-discrimination laws by failing to protect them against sexual harassment and assault.” The university “fails to investigate and punish assailants or to keep victims informed about the status of their cases. Instead of feeling supported by their school, they said, they felt victimized again,” the news organization reported, after six of the women spoke out at a press conference that month about their experiences with UC Berkeley.
The University of California announced broad changes in March to its sexual assault-related policies, to put in place “expanded training and education, stricter reporting requirements, more protections for victims and specific sanctions and protective measures that the university may impose,” the Bay Area News Group reported.
UC Berkeley is among 55 colleges and universities throughout the nation that are facing a federal investigation by the Department of Education related to how they deal with sexual assault reports, according to the Associated Press.
The White House has created a task force to push for more transparency related to sexual assault on campus. The task force launched a website, notalone.gov, to provide resources to survivors and make it easier to find out about past enforcement actions on campus.
Resources related to sexual violence are posted online via UC Berkeley’s health services department. The university’s Gender Equity Resource Center also has information posted on its website. Bay Area Women Against Rape, a local advocacy and support organization, operates a 24-hour crisis hotline that can be reached at 510-845-RAPE (7273).
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