A female student reported a man in a car grabbed her and forced her to see him masturbate at the intersection of 22nd and L streets near Aston Hall. The simple assault marks the second crime a student reported this month. Three students have been assaulted at the intersection since November.
A male in a white compact car stopped near the intersection and asked a female student for directions to New York Avenue at about midnight, said Dolores Stafford, director of the University Police Department.
“The student approached the car, and he grabbed her from inside the car to show her he was masturbating,” Stafford said.
The student then pulled away unharmed and continued walking to a friend’s residence, Stafford said.
The suspect is described as a black male with a dark complexion and a medium build.
The student contacted UPD the next afternoon and did not report the incident to Metropolitan Police, Stafford said.
At the same intersection a student walking alone on Feb. 4 was robbed at gunpoint and forced to give up his cell phone and wallet. On Nov. 9 a female student was attacked and robbed of her purse, also near the intersection.
Some businesses in the area have not had security problems, employees said. The Exxon gas station on M Street between 22nd Street and Rhode Island Avenue, has never been robbed, said one employee who has worked there for three years. He also said police officers frequent the station, which is open from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.
The PMI parking lot next to the gas station was robbed three years ago, but has not had problems since, one employee said. It was not in a dangerous area, he said, and that it was the “last place” he would see crime.
“You’re not safe anywhere,” said Jean Anglade, another PMI employee.
Some students said the area around Aston Hall is not especially unsafe. Students living in off-campus apartments in Savoy Towers, Carriage House and Winston House often walk home by passing the 22nd and L Street intersection.
Aston Hall residents also cross the intersection walking from campus.
“I don’t take any special precautions,” said sophomore Justin Borodinsky, who lives in the Aston. “You just have to keep an eye out.”
Junior Andrew Wurtzel said the recent crimes are not an indication of the level of security the Aston receives, and that the residence hall does not need the same level of security as all the other halls.
“We have this liberty to live in an apartment and not be baby-sat by UPD,” he said.
Other Aston residents said the University does not provide enough security for the area.
“(The Aston) definitely has a scary feel to it,” said sophomore Jordana Schwartz, an Aston resident. “The streets are very dark here and there aren’t many people around. There are no blue-light phones, which makes it hard to get help immediately. I always take 4-RIDE even if it’s eight at night.”
Schwartz said the campus escort service 4-RIDE sometimes takes more than an hour to arrive, creating an added sense of insecurity. She said UPD should station an officer at the residence hall 24 hours a day. An officer sits in the lobby at Thurston Hall and the Hall on Virginia Avenue at all times.
“HOVA and Thurston are as far off campus and have 24-hour UPD,” one Aston community host said. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t too, especially when Trachtenberg has UPD at his house all the way on Connecticut Avenue.”
Other students said safety concerns are an unavoidable part of city living.
“You have to take extra precautions in a city,” junior Yasmin Himid said. “There should be more security at the Aston than other dorms, but sadly it is to be expected. I don’t walk alone at night because I don’t want to be stupid.”
Stafford said the string of incidents at the intersection should serve as a warning to students not to walk alone at night anywhere on campus.
“Use the escort service as much as possible,” Stafford said. “If students are absolutely against using the service, then at least walk in groups. It’s not a fool-proof method, but there is safety in numbers.”
Stafford said she does not know if the student involved in this latest incident was walking alone.
UPD’s escort service, 4-RIDE, runs from 7 p.m. until 5:45 a.m. to locations as far as three blocks off campus.
Stafford also suggested students should use the campus shuttle bus. The shuttle stops at locations around campus on a regular basis from 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. daily. It stops at the Aston, the closest stop to the intersection of 22nd and L streets.
Students should use 21st Street when walking between the Aston and campus because UPD increased its patrols on the street as a result of safety concerns, Stafford said.
The schedule for the campus shuttle is available on the UPD Web site at www.gwired.gwu.edu/upd.