A female jogger running along the Provo River Trail was attacked and sexually assaulted Monday night.
The Provo Police Department reported in a news release the 20-year-old woman was attacked with a steak knife, dragged off the trail and sexually assaulted around 9 p.m.
The suspect is described as a 6′ Caucasian or Hispanic weighing between 180-190 lbs. He wore black shoes, black sweatpants and a black hoodie shrouding his face. He ran away shortly following the attack.
While the Police Department is doing what they can to prevent attacks like this, personal safety precautions can help.
Lt. Arnold Lemmon of the University Police said people are too naive and trusting with personal information and incidents can often turn into a tragedy.
“This is a large church institution where [students] let their guard down and become easy prey for predators,” Lemmon said.
Kara Bray, a senior from West Jordan, said she experienced her freshman year the importance of safety even when she was on-campus. While studying in the library, Bray said she noticed on several different occasions an older man in his 50s following her.
“This guy would sit by me a lot, and when I tried to switch seats he would follow,” Bray said.
She reported the man to campus security, but never returned to her usual study location.
“What do I do?” Bray asked. “Not study in the library?”
Hayley Shauklas, a 20-year-old avid runner from Oregon, runs an average of 25 to 30 miles a week and has noticed suspicious behavior.
“I have seen people try to follow me,” Shauklas said. “In particular, men in cars follow me and then loop back around the block.”
Shauklas said she feels safety is really important and she would rather take precautions now to avoid dealing with a serious issue in the future.
The goal of the campus police is to educate students on personal safety both on and off campus.
“We want to prevent rather than investigate,” Lemmon said.
The Campus Security Report provides information on certain criminal acts and tips on how people can be safe.
The report suggests pedestrians should travel in well lit, busy routes and carry a noisemaker, light and cell phone. People should be aware of their environment by having a plan of action in case of emergency and walk with an air of confidence. The personal safety list also warns people not to stand close to drivers who ask for directions.
Safety at home is also an issue, and last year the Campus Security Report recorded 17 campus and residence hall burglaries. Lemmon said doors should be locked at all times and personal items should be secured within the residence. Roommates need to agree on safety precautions they will take to remain secure.
Crime on the Internet has also increased in recent years and users are urged to be cautious.
Lemmon said phrases such as “you have been selected” or “you just won” should be a major warning sign of a scam. The most frequent issue is with the Nigerian Scams that ask victims to cash a check and keep a percentage of the cash.
UTA bus passes are available for students and precautions apply to bus travel as well. Gerry Carpenter, UTA spokesman, said the most common issue on buses is people leaving personal items behind.
“People pick them up and do not turn them in,” Carpenter said.
Valuables and the personal information inside of them are stolen this way. Carpenter said although crime on buses is limited, people should pay close attention to their personal items and surroundings. Even though the local police patrol bus stops, with more than 100 bus routes surveillance is difficult. The level of danger depends on the area, but Carpenter suggested travelers should board buses quickly.
Lemmon said defense classes and safety videos are a helpful reference for personal safety. A video Lemmon recommended on the University Police website called “Shots Fired” shows students how to respond to a gunman.
Provo Police Sgt. Mathew Siufanua released a follow-up news release assuring the public that police working on reducing such accidents.
“Every day officers conduct patrols on the trail,” Siufanua said in the news release. “We have used bicycles, motorcycles and even a Segway borrowed from UVU.”
There has also been an increase in the amount of foot patrols on the trail, Siufanua wrote.
University police officers are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. To report a crime or emergency call University Police at 801-422-2222.