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Durham police investigate Swift Avenue sexual assault

<p>The suspect in the sexual assault&nbsp;investigation&nbsp;is a black male in his late teens to mid-20s.</p>

The suspect in the sexual assault investigation is a black male in his late teens to mid-20s.

UPDATE Dec. 10: The Durham Police Department released a photo of the suspect in the sexual assault that occurred Nov. 30. The suspect is a black male approximately 5 feet 9 inches tall in his late teens to mid-20s. He was photographed wearing jeans, a gray t-shirt and black jacket with a hood and was clean shaven. 

When a recent DukeAlert indicated that a reported sexual assault had occurred in broad daylight very close to campus, students were shocked.

Last Wednesday, an individual told police that as she was walking on Swift Avenue at 10:10 a.m., a male subject took her into the woods and sexually assaulted and robbed her at knife point. The case is currently being investigated by the Durham Police Department, and according to the incident report, the attack happened on the 600 block of Swift. No charges have been filed at this time and DPD has no new information for release, wrote Kammie Michael, public information officer at DPD, in an email. 

According to the report, the assault and robbery were reported to the police at 5:18 p.m. The DukeAlert was not sent out until approximately 9:16 p.m.

John Dailey, chief of the Duke University Police Department, wrote in an email that DUPD has increased the number of officers patrolling the area of the incident since last Wednesday, but did not provide any more details. He also wrote that there are "layers of protection" in the area, in the form of patrols from both DUPD and DPD. 

"Some of these patrol efforts are noticeable and some are not," he wrote.

Sophomore Katy Grant, who lives on Central Campus, said that the sexual assault has intensified her feeling of insecurity when walking around certain areas. 

“This is definitely going to exacerbate it a little bit for me and I know for other people as well,” Grant said.

Senior Tierney Marey, who lives at the University Apartments on Duke University Road, noted she has changed her walking patterns in response to the incident. And senior Katie Becker also said she was disturbed by the violent nature and timing of the incident. Becker, who lives in Ubuntu section on Central Campus, also expressed hope that the incident would act as a call-to-action for the Duke administration.

“It is my hope that this incident would bring to light, both for women and for everyone, the considerations that women have to take when planning for our safety,” Becker said.

She added that there are currently obstacles that prevent women from feeling safe on campus, noting the unreliable bus schedule and an insufficient number of security guards present on Central Campus. DUPD doubled the number of police security officers patrolling Central Campus in September 2015, after a number of armed robberies occurred that year.

Students had different opinions about how the University should respond to the situation. Although Marey noted she understands that the investigation is ongoing, she said she wished there had been a follow-up email to students after the initial DukeAlert was sent out. 

Becker also said that the University could do more to assist victims and release safety tips for students.

“There’s a way to communicate safety tips and a way to communicate that everyone’s safety is important to our community without falling into [the] trap of victim-blaming," Becker said. "These are things we all should have been thinking about anyway, but this really brings it to light.”

In his email, Dailey noted that the new LiveSafe app attempts to make campus safer for students, by helping students know where their friends are at various times as well as providing a panic button. 

"For example, one can ask a contact to follow their walk virtually and in realtime to ensure safe arrival," he wrote. 


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