Three specially-trained Cornell police officers are now exclusively investigating reports of sexual assault after a string of incidents were reported on or near campus this semester, according to Police Chief Kathy Zoner.The three CUPD officers have been reassigned to a task force that will work to resolve and investigate possible connections between the reported crimes, Zoner said.“The string of reported sexual assaults warranted the formation of the task force,” Zoner said. The primary focus of the task force is to expedite the review of evidence and witness testimony in order to identify and apprehend suspects in the multiple sexual assault cases, Zoner said. On Sept. 2, three attacks were reported within hours of one another –– a forcible touching in Collegetown, a harassment in the parking lot near Hughes Dining and a rape near the suspension bridge north of the Arts Quad. Another female victim also reported an attempted rape on Sept. 27 near the trolley bridge connecting the Engineering Quad and Oak Avenue.Additionally, a female student reported that she was grabbed and harassed by a masked man behind 111 Dryden Rd. early Saturday morning.Zoner could not comment on the findings of the task force’s investigations, which have been ongoing throughout the month of October.“We’re still investigating,” she said. “In some cases, we feel firm [the reported crimes] are not connected. In others, we’re not so sure.”The creation of the task force comes in the wake of student criticism of what some have called the administration’s lack of response to the reported incidents. Coalitions of students, including the Assembly for Justice have urged administrators to take more proactive steps in addressing sexual assaults.The task force is one way in which CUPD is responding to a need created by the series of reports, Zoner said.“This is an effort that’s solely dedicated to the reports [of sexual assault],” she said.Among other initiatives, CUPD has also increased its nightly patrols and has begun sending out weekly emails to the Cornell community, reminding students, faculty and staff of available resources such as Blue Light phones and escort services.CUPD urges anyone with information about any of the reported crimes to call its headquarters at 607-255-1111.
Original Author: Kerry Close