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Campus safety report shows VCU rape reports increased, but causes may be complicated

The university’s crime statistics are complicated because there are several different sets of data. Just days before VCU released its annual campus safety report, which goes to the U.S. Department of Education, the FBI posted crime numbers for the nation’s colleges and universities.

Capital News Service

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By Diana DiGangi – Capital News Service

A recently released campus safety report showed Virginia Commonwealth University’s number of rape reports nearly doubling, but officials say could be a good sign.

Both the VCU Police Department and the university’s Wellness Center say the increase could be due to students feeling more at ease in coming forward about being the victims of sexual assaults – not an increase in the crimes themselves.

“We believe individuals come forward because they feel comfortable reporting to VCUPD and that awareness and education is a key part in communicating to the community,” said Matthew Lovisa, coordinator of communications and marketing for the university’s Division of Student Affairs.

In its 2017 Annual Security & Fire Safety Report, VCU reported that 15 rapes occurred on campus in 2016. That was a big jump from eight rapes in 2015 and five in 2014.

Crime statistics are complicated because there are several different sets of data. Just days before VCU released its annual campus safety report, which goes to the U.S. Department of Education, the FBI posted crime numbers for the nation’s colleges and universities.

The FBI data showed that VCU had reported nine rapes in 2016. Why didn’t the number match the 15 rapes tallied in VCU’s own report?

Because VCU must pass along all rape reports to the Department of Education, even if the victim has decided not to file a criminal complaint, according to VCU Police. For example, the victim may have chosen to file a Title IX complaint or just seek counseling services.

There was a similar discrepancy in sexual assault statistics in 2015, when the FBI listed three criminally reported rapes at VCU and VCU’s campus safety report listed eight rapes overall.

Officials didn’t seem to think the increase in numbers was indicative of a rape trend as much as a sea change in attitudes toward sex crimes and the victims of such assaults.

“VCU Police has had a paradigm shift in the way the department handles sexual assaults since 2010,” said department spokeswoman Corey Byers.

In 2010, the FBI listed VCU – along with 14 other schools in Virginia – as having reported zero rapes. Only seven colleges and universities in the state reported any rapes that year, with the highest being four at Radford University.

“VCU Police officers want to establish trust and rapport with survivors and want them to know they will be supported when they come forward,” Byers said.

VCU Police are participating in a nationwide campaign called “Start By Believing.” The campaign urges law enforcement officials to trust people when they report sexual assault.

VCU Police Chief John Venuti served on Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence in 2014-15. It recommended that law enforcement agencies provide a “You Have Options” program, which offers victims several ways to report a sexual assault, including just giving authorities a verbal record of the crime.

The Wellness Resource Center at VCU has a team of advocates for students who have experienced sexual violence, intimate partner violence and stalking. They meet with students to provide them with guidance, options and support.

In the spirit of “You Have Options,” VCU Police added several “soft interview rooms” for victims of violence or their families. These rooms have soft lighting and furniture and are meant to make those being interviewed as comfortable as possible.

“Our whole goal is just making sure they know that there’s ‘no wrong door,’” said Fatima Smith, the Well’s assistant director of sexual and intimate partner violence, stalking and advocacy services. “In other words, wherever you enter, you’ll be supported, you’ll be believed, you’ll be heard.”

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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VIDEO: Suspect sought in serial destruction of property at downtown law firm

Security video shows the suspect outside Tavenner & Beran, PLC, located at 20 N 8th Street, on Saturday, September 19. The most recent incident occurred on September 21.

RVAHub Staff

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From Richmond Police:

Richmond Police detectives need the public’s help to identify the man in the photo and video shown here who intentionally cut the phone and internet cables to a private law firm on several occasions this year.

Security video shows the suspect outside Tavenner & Beran, PLC, located at 20 N 8th Street, on Saturday, September 19. The most recent incident occurred on September 21.

Detectives believe this suspect opened the electrical box and cut the wires inside back in January. After a lock was installed, he proceeded to cut all the wires to the electrical box again.

Anyone with information about the identity of this suspect is asked to call Fourth Precinct Detective J. Land at (804) 646-3103 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used.  All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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Suspect sought in downtown convenience store robbery

Richmond Police detectives need the public’s help to identify the individual in the photo who stole hundreds of dollars worth of candy from a convenience store earlier this month.

RVAHub Staff

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From Richmond Police:

Richmond Police detectives need the public’s help to identify the individual in the photo who stole hundreds of dollars worth of candy from a convenience store earlier this month.

On Sunday, September 13, an unknown male entered the BP in the 2600 block of East Main Street. He removed a garbage bag from his pants and then went to the candy aisle and filled the entire bag with candy. The suspect left the store and was last seen walking to a hatchback vehicle.

Detectives ask anyone with any information about this man’s identity to call First Precinct Detective T. Wilson at (804) 646-0672 or Crime Stoppers at 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smart phones may also be used. All three Crime Stoppers methods of contact are anonymous.

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RPD Seeking GRTC Pulse Assault Victim, Man Wanted for Attacking Woman

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From RPD:

Richmond Police detectives are asking for the victim of a recent assault on a GRTC Pulse bus to come forward.

At around noon on August 31, 2020, security video shows a man rising from his seat on a GRTC Pulse bus. As he steps towards the back of the bus, he intentionally and forcefully strikes the victim, seated directly behind him, in the head. The suspect pretends to slip, and then slips near the driver. We covered the victim’s face for her safety, but detectives would like to speak to her about the incident. The suspect eventually exited the bus.

The same man is suspected in two other random attacks on women in the City of Richmond, as well as another assault of a woman in Henrico County.

At around 10:15 a.m. on August 31, 2020, security video shows the elderly victim using a cane to cross East Broad Street at North 4th Street. When she reaches the sidewalk, the suspect punches her in the face with such force she’s knocked to the ground. The suspect walked away.

At around 3:45 p.m. on July 21, 2020, security video shows the victim on her phone and the suspect seated directly in front of her. As the bus approaches a stop, the suspect leans back and elbows her in the head and chest. The suspect again pretends he slipped and fell, then elbows the victim in the head a second time. The suspect exited the bus.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. Both Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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