In light of a recent string of sexual assaults, Berkeley Police Department released a video of a potential suspect Thursday.
According to a BPD crime alert, the perpetrator of these assaults may be targeting college-aged Asian women. The attacks all occurred near campus, with two specifically in the vicinity of People’s Park in the late hours of the evening.
The first attack took place Feb. 11, with two other assaults occurring Feb. 16 within half an hour of each other. BPD has sent patrol officers close to the area of the assaults to monitor for potential suspects, according to BPD Lt. Andrew Rateaver.
The suspect is described as a male in his early 20s with dark curly hair, and may be wearing a dark colored jacket and pants with a hooded sweatshirt.
“Recently, the sexual assault cases have had a similar geographical area (around People’s Park), and at the same time of day,” Rateaver said.
Rateaver confirmed that the investigation is ongoing and there have been no arrests thus far.
There is a relationship between the school calendar and an increase in reported sexual assaults, Rateaver said.
“During the summer months sexual assault, cases go down as there is a smaller percentage of people in the area,” Rateaver said. “When people come back during the school year the number of sexual assault cases tend to go up.”
Although the sexual assaults reported this week did not take place directly on campus, student leaders said that in conjunction with increased awareness of sexual violence, the campus has, in the past year, launched programs to provide more support for victims.
Leah Romm, ASUC student advocate, said the question everyone working to prevent and combat sexual violence is concerned with is whether the number of sexual assaults is actually increasing or if more survivors are coming forward.
Marandah Field-Elliot, who has worked within the ASUC Sexual Assault Commission, said education is an important component of sexual violence prevention. In the aftermath of this week’s assaults, many may wrongly place the burden on potential victims to be vigilant, she said.
“Obviously the rational thing is to suggest that people be careful, walk together in groups,” Field-Elliot said. “This is also implying victim-blaming, which is not ideal.”
While efforts have been made by the administration to support survivors, Romm said, the campus must make a conscious and active effort to educate and maintain quality of services even with the expected increase in student enrollment in the fall.
“Each of us can intervene when we hear or see the signs of oppression and violence and create a culture of support for survivors,” said Mari Knuth-Bouracee, director of sexual assault prevention and student advocacy.
BPD is requesting that individuals with information on the suspect call the Special Victims Unit at 510-981-5735.