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April 20, 2014 | by  | in Homepage News |
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Key Campus Pathway Remains Unsafe

TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with an account of sexual assault and may be triggering to some people.

A third woman has been sexually assaulted near the Boyd-Wilson path in the past two weeks, but the Wellington City Council is hesitant to install better lighting because of residents’ complaints.

The most recent attack occurred around 1 am on Sunday morning. Detective Senior Sergeant Warwick McKee said the woman was attacked as she walked up a path to her house, near the Boyd-Wilson Field.

The woman had seen reports of an attack on the path on Saturday morning, and had taken the precaution of walking home with a couple as she was concerned for her safety walking home alone. She walked with them as far as a path leading to her house, and was met by the assailant at the top of the path, where she was assaulted.

“He has spoken to her briefly and then indecently assaulted her before she’s run off to her home address,” McKee said.

McKee told Salient that Police have been dealing with reports of sexual assaults of students on the path for the past ten years. Despite this, LED lights along the path were only installed last year, and the area remains dark and is not monitored by CCTV cameras.

Richard MacLean, Communications Advisor for the Wellington City Council, told Salient that the Council had been “making an extra effort” to improve lighting on the path after the 23 March assault. However, MacLean noted residents had expressed concern about too much lighting in the area, saying “no one wants bright glaring lights.”

When asked whether residents’ concerns should be given that much weight in light of the three sexually motivated attacks which have taken place so far this year, MacLean disagreed and said that we have to be “fairly reasonable in our approach”.

The Council is advising that “if you are a young women walking in that area, that you take another route.” When asked whether the Council was blaming the young women who have been attacked for walking on that path, MacLean said that the Council “are not blaming anybody.”

The Council has been working with the University and Te Aro School to install CCTV cameras in the area. When asked whether that installation would be accelerated, MacLean said that because of the Easter break, nothing could be done over the next 24 hours.

Detective McKee said the Police were “well and truly behind” the installation of CCTV in the area, and were this week working with the University and Council to install CCTV.

McKee said the path was an “area of priority”, but Police did not have resources to permanently station a police officer in the area. Since Saturday morning’s attacks, Police have scheduled foot patrols and dog patrols, and plain-clothes officers have been monitoring the path.

Last Monday, Salient reported ongoing issues with safety on the path following the attack of a woman using the path on 28 March.

At the time, Ross Barnett, Victoria’s police liaison officer, said that the Council had increased regular maintenance of foliage surrounding the path and Police had increased patrolling of the path at peak times.

Victoria students on the Overheard @ Vic Facebook page expressed fear and frustration at the third attack, and questioned whether Police and the University were doing enough to keep them safe.

After Saturday morning’s attack, students created a change.org petition to increase safety measures and patrolling of the path. At the time of writing, the petition had 359 signatures.

Some students suggested reinstating the Campus Angels service run by VUWSA until 2012, or the installation of panic buttons along the path, as well as increased lighting.

Students also noted that advice not to use the path was not practical, as the path is a key access route for students in Te Puni, a University Hall of Residence which is home to around 400 first-year students, as well as for students who live in Kelburn or surrounding areas.

Director of Campus Services at Victoria, Jenny Bentley, said that the University was “extremely conscious of student safety” and advised students not to use the pathway if they are alone. She said that the University will talk to VUWSA about security measures such as Campus Angels next week.

“If any of our students has any information which may assist the Police to catch the offender, we ask that they contact the Police immediately. We urge all students to follow Police advice that the path is unsafe,” Bentley said.

VUWSA’s Vice-President for Welfare, Rick Zwaan, said the organisation was looking into ways to help keep students safe, such as panic buttons. He said Campus Angels had been cut as it was expensive and seldom used.

Zwaan also stressed the importance of not blaming the victims of assault. He said that a lot of media coverage had focussed on what students needed to do to keep themselves safe, but that the University, Council and Police should stress that the actions of the assailant will not be condoned.

Police have urged anyone with information to contact Wellington Police on (04) 472 3000, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 274 637.

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