Ohio University police cruiser

Photo courtesy of: OUPD

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Local police educating students to reduce sexual assaults

Along with Ohio University's ongoing efforts to prevent sexual assault, OUPD and the Athens Police Department have taken increased actions to educate students on how to make themselves less vulnerable.

Educating the public is a key initiative in preventing sexual assault. The more people know about the precautions to take, the less likely they are to be victims of crimes such as rape and sexual assault.

"Law enforcement plays a role in the education and information realm of crime prevention," said Tom Pyle, Athens City police chief. "It is imperative that people arm themselves with information to prevent crime."

National statistics show that sexual assault cases on college campuses are mostly acquaintance based rather than random. These types of rape or sexual assaults are difficult for police to monitor in a traditional sense.

"It really is an issue that the police alone cannot respond to," said Andrew Powers, Ohio University police chief. "There must be a community policing type of initiative."

Despite the prevalence of acquaintance based assaults, Powers said students can significantly reduce random sexual assaults by being more responsible for their safety, especially after consuming alcohol.

Powers feels that alcohol consumption is a significant factor in sexual assaults on campus. He encourages students to avoid drinking to the point of being unable to appraise the surrounding situation. He also suggests that students should not walk alone or with a new acquaintance.

"If you meet somebody at a bar that you've never met before, that might not be the best person to walk you home," said Powers, and stressed that students should always keep this in mind.

Both the OUPD and the Athens police have increased their joint patrol of areas that have been main targets of such crimes. The Athens Police Department also makes the effort to send out reports on where and how often sexual assaults occur so that the public will know where to be most cautious.

Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis and Athens City Mayor Paul Wiehl are in the process of appointing a Police Advisory Board in which Powers and Pyle will both interact. The board's purpose is to prioritize crime prevention initiatives and engage the community in crime prevention efforts. It also will encourage students to get involved in crime prevention.

For more information on the steps to take to avoid sexual assault, click here.