RIO GRANDE — After Athens police announced they are investigating a potential serial sexual predator in the Athens County area, the University of Rio Grande is remaining vigilant and warning students to keep their wits about them.
University officials sent students and staff e-mail messages to be cautious when traveling about campus and to take extra precautions if walking alone. So far, no reports of similar activity being reported in Athens County has appeared in Rio Grande.
URG Campus Police Chief Scott Borden told the Tribune that Feb. 1 marked the fifth year of his time serving with campus law enforcement. In his time with the institution, Borden said he and his team have made “every effort” to insure the safety of students and faculty on the campus in support with the Rio Grande Police Department.
Borden once served as a post commander with the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Several other officers in campus law enforcement have also served with OSHP. According to Borden, the URG police force encompasses around 80 years of collective state trooper experience.
Borden said it is not uncommon for police to enter freshman introductory courses to speak about campus safety with students and to emphasize the necessity of remaining aware of one’s surroundings, especially when trying to prevent a potential sexual attack. Police recommend that students always travel in groups, travel in well-lit areas, talk on their phone loudly or call a friend when they suspect they are being followed. Borden also said students or faculty could make use of the campus escort system which provides an officer to help travel with an individual about the area.
Borden said campus police make efforts to patrol the surrounding areas on campus in car or by foot. According to the University of Rio Grande 2015 Campus Safety and Fire Annual Report, no sexual crimes were committed outside of a building on university property in the last three years. Three recorded sex offenses happened inside residential facilities in 2013 and one in 2014. There were no sexual offenses in 2012. Borden said officers’ appearance can often dissuade a potential attacker or law breaker.
Despite there having been no attacks outside of a building, Borden warned young people to always be cautious of “date rape.” While campus and village police do what they can, crime still can happen. Individuals should always be cautious of who they invite into their home.
Campus police offer information on counseling services. Borden said in the event a crime takes place, authorities are quick to investigate.
Dr. Michelle Johnston, president of URG, has been a vocal advocate of programs like Changing Campus Culture, an Ohio Department of Higher Education initiative to empower staff, faculty, law enforcement and students to prevent sexual violence through researched training methods.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.