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American University students launch SafeWalk to protect peers

Friday - 10/19/2012, 10:19am  ET

WASHINGTON - After a series of groping incidents near American University's campus, students are launching a program in an attempt to keep their peers safe at night.

The program called SafeWalk was started by the Coalition of American University Students after reports of five attacks on women. Four of the attacks between Sept. 24 through Oct. 1 are under investigation by the campus police. A fifth attack is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department.

None of the attacks occurred on the university's campus, but the suspect has been dubbed the "AU groper."

The AU student newspaper, The Eagle reports that students can contact SafeWalk to have student volunteers escort them home from campus between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Chris Litchfield, a CAUS member and senior in the School of Public Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences, says in the article that SafeWalk will continue for as long as students use the service.

"It was something we could do to directly help the student body, students who needed help and weren't getting it from other places," Litchfield says.

The assaults occurred between the Berkshire Apartments on Massachusetts Avenue and the main campus. District police are investigating one of the incidents that happened off campus.

The suspect reportedly comes up from behind a victim on a bicycle, grabs the victim and rides off.

AU campus police offer a program called Safe Ride to Campus, which allows students to take a taxi ride home. The police will cover the tab, which will then be placed on the student's account. A student also can ask for a free police escort 24/7.

The university is alerting women to walk with at least one other person.

Need a ride or walk home from American University?

  • Contact SafeWalk at 202-885-3333
  • Contact a public safety police escort at 202-885-2529

WTOP's Mark Segraves contributed to this report. Follow Mark and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)