UPD investigates sexual assaults

The University Police Department (UPD) received four reports of sexual violence on campus over the course of eight days surrounding the first day of the fall semester — three cases remain unsolved. 

In the early hours of Monday, Aug. 26, the first day of class for the fall semester, a student was allegedly raped at the Cesar Chavez Student Center. The victim called for help immediately after the assault and within minutes, UPD arrested Santiago Gonzalez Gonzalez, according to UPD Deputy Chief of Police Wailun Shiu. The 24-year-old man, who is not a student, was found on the staircase leading to the Pub. He also matched a description given by the victim, according to Gonzalez’s case file. 

Gonzalez has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges including false imprisonment with violence, sexual battery with restraint and sodomy against the victim’s will, according to Alex Bastian, Director of Communications for the San Francisco District Attorney. At the time of the attack, Gonzalez was awaiting trial for a residential burglary he allegedly committed nine days prior within the Parkmerced community.

Little is known of the other three attacks due to the fact that none have led to arrests. The only publicly accessible information currently is what the university is required to report under the Jeanne Clery Act of 1998 which compels colleges and universities to publish a daily crime log and issue timely warnings of certain crimes, including sexual assaults, according to the UPD website. No timely warnings were issued for any of the crimes.  

“If the university feels it’s important to keep it quiet they should exercise more safety,” said student Kenneth Chang when he first heard of the crimes. 

Under the Clery Act, colleges and universities are also obligated to post annual security reports. The most recent reports show that the total number of violent sexual incidents has gone up nearly every year since 2015. 

In 2015, the university received 19 reports of sexual violence crimes. In 2016, the number went up to 24. In 2017, it went up to 27. 2018 saw a dramatic decrease to 17 reported crimes, but 2019 is expected to see another increase, according to Shiu. 

Since the beginning of the semester, UPD has issued three timely warnings. Two were relating to residential burglaries and one was about an unverified report of a man with a firearm, according to the UPD website. 

Timely warnings must be sent to the campus community for certain crimes, including sexual violence, if the school believes the incident “poses a serious or ongoing threat to the community,” according to the UPD Annual Security Report. 

UPD received the first of the four reports on Thursday, Aug. 22, a sexual battery at Mary Ward Hall. Sexual battery is defined as non consensual sexual touching of another person, according to the California penal code. The crime allegedly occurred at 5:30 a.m. that morning and was reported at approximately 1 p.m. The investigation into the case is currently suspended and “pending further leads,” according to the UPD crime log, which includes the time and place the crimes occurred, when they were reported, the charges, and the current status of the investigation. 

Approximately half an hour after UPD received this report, their Twitter account issued a “quick safety reminder,” suggesting that students walk in groups and keep to well lit areas, among other things. One person replied to the tweet, asking if something was going on, but the UPD account replied “These are general safety tips.” 

The following night, Friday, Aug. 23, UPD received a report of yet another sexual battery at the student center. The crime was reported 10 minutes after it occurred, according to the UPD crime log. The investigation is on-going. 

UPD received the last of the four reports on Friday, Aug. 30, at the end of the first week of school. At some point during the hours between Wednesday and Thursday, somebody at the Centennial Village was allegedly raped while drugged or intoxicated, according to the crime log. The investigation is ongoing. 

“For the [crimes] in residential communities, I feel like that’s something RA’s especially should be cognisant of,” said Sydnie Conner, a pre-sociology student. 

“University Police takes these incidents very seriously,” said Deputy Chief Shiu. “We offer programs to help and educate individuals to stay safe. Programs such as The Care Escort program and R.A.D. self-defense course are free programs and are offered year-round,” said Shiu when asked what is being done to address these crimes. Shiu added that UPD has increased the number of patrols by Division of Campus Safety staff.

The ultimate decision of whether specific situations constitute a serious threat is left to the University Chief of Police and a Clery Director, somebody whose job it is to lead a team focused on Clery Act compliance. SF State currently has no Clery Director and has not had anybody leading Clery compliance advising for roughly 10 months. 

“SF State had a Clery Manager position that was vacated in November 2018. We created our EOC-Clery Director position in February 2019 and have an active recruitment for the position in process,” said Shiu. 

When asked for the names of those within the department that decided against issuing timely warnings, Shiu would not specify more than to say the decisions, “are made collaboratively between the on duty supervisors and the command staff.  This would include the Chief of Police down to the Lieutenants.” Shiu went on to explain that he could not discuss which factors led to these decisions due to the fact that the investigations were ongoing. 

Victims of sexual violence can access resources at multiple places on campus including the SAFE Place, the Title IX office and the Health Promotion and Wellness office. Those who would like to get involved in combating sexual violence can join the Sexual Violence Prevention Collaborative.