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Police Are Investigating Ashford Street Attacks

Five women assaulted in past six weeks

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The Boston Police Department is investigating five early morning attacks that occurred on Ashford Street in Allston over the past six weeks. In each instance, a male assailant pushed a woman to the ground, lifted her skirt or pulled down her pants, and snapped a picture with what is believed to be an iPhone.

The Boston University Police Department, which does not have jurisdiction in the area, is collaborating with Boston Police and issued a University-wide alert last Wednesday notifying the BU community about the assaults.

“It’s something that’s a pretty perverse thing to be doing,” says Peter Fiedler (COM’77), vice president for administrative services. “The most important thing out of all of this is that people need to know we’re actively looking for this person, but they need to be actively protecting themselves as well.”

The suspect is described as a Hispanic male with a white or light complexion, of thin to medium build and average height, and between the ages of 19 and 30. Because the assailant approaches his victims from behind and shoves them to the ground, none of the victims have been able to get a good look at him, says BUPD Captain Robert Molloy. None of the women have been physically injured.

The first two assaults occurred on September 23 and another pair on October 27. The most recent was November 6, according to BPD spokeswoman Cheryl Fiandaca.

Fiedler says the September 23 attacks, which were reported in the local media, seemed at the time to be an isolated incident. But with three more in one week’s time, BU officials became increasingly concerned for students’ safety and sent the University-wide alert. “It’s very disturbing to have this sort of situation happen,” says Fiedler. “I want to assure the community that the BUPD and BPD take this very seriously and are increasing patrols to find this suspect.”

Police believe the suspect is acting alone. Initially they thought the incidents might be part of a hazing ritual. “The way they did it lends one to believe that, except it’s been going on now for a little while,” Molloy says. Neither department would speculate on a motive for the attacks, and Boston Police refused to comment on whether the pictures were being posted online, citing that the investigation is ongoing.

Molloy sees no connection between these attacks and a string of peeping tom incidents in residence hall showers that happened during the spring 2012 semester.

When attacks like these occur, people often talk about prevention. But “it’s hard to say what someone can do to protect themselves, when all they are doing is just walking down the street,” says crisis counselor Maureen Mahoney, director of the Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center. “It’s kind of a human right to walk down the street and not be harmed.

“What’s more pertinent than that is to ask people to watch out for one another,” Mahoney says. “The person who’s doing this probably has friends, acquaintances, and followers on Facebook or Twitter. If these photographs are being posted somewhere, those someones should step up and call the police.”

Mahoney says anyone witnessing an attack should immediately call the police and make sure the victim isn’t alone and is OK. She encourages all students who have been assaulted to contact SARP, and if they are willing, the police.

Molloy offers the following advice for students out late at night.

  • Always walk with friends
  • Travel in well-lit and populated areas
  • Cross the street to avoid people who seem suspicious
  • Enter an open store or residence and call the police if you suspect someone is following you.
  • Do not talk on the phone or text while walking alone at night.

Anyone with information about the assaults should call Boston police detectives at 617-343-4256 or BU police detectives at 617-353-3436.

The Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center, 930 Commonwealth Ave., has staff answering calls all day, every day at 617-353-SARP (7277). Students calling after hours can leave a message or speak with an on-call crisis counselor. They can also contact staff via email at sarp@bu.edu. All services are free and information is kept confidential.

19 Comments
Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

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19 Comments on Police Are Investigating Ashford Street Attacks

  • Molly Savard on 11.19.2012 at 8:35 am

    Just when I thought this was going to get real victim blame-y…

    When attacks like these occur, people often talk about prevention. But “it’s hard to say what someone can do to protect themselves, when all they are doing is just walking down the street,” says crisis counselor Maureen Mahoney, director of the Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center. “It’s kind of a human right to walk down the street and not be harmed.”

    Thanks, Maureen.

  • Barbara on 11.19.2012 at 8:45 am

    I bike down this street after class and it is far too dark, even with my front light I can’t see what’s in front of me. I think that the implementation of more street lights would help deter people from commiting such violating acts.

  • Jonathan on 11.19.2012 at 8:55 am

    This is known as “sharking” and is well-known perversity on the internet.

  • Big Jim on 11.19.2012 at 9:46 am

    BUPD doesn’t have jurisdiction in the area? This is the exact area in which they pride themselves on breaking up parties. Maybe if they focused on the 5 assaults in the last 6 weeks instead of that we’d have a safer campus

    • Robert on 11.19.2012 at 11:53 am

      BUPD does not have jurisdiction in the GAP Area but they ride along with BPD and work closely with them (actually pay them) to monitor the parties in this area.
      http://www.bu.edu/today/2011/drinking/

  • AP on 11.19.2012 at 10:00 am

    “She encourages all students who have been assaulted to contact SARP, and if they are willing, the police.”

    Reporting such crimes to the police should be considered a given, not an option. Shame on BU for not encouraging students to contact the police straight out.

    • Maureen on 12.06.2012 at 11:35 am

      They’re not encouraging people to outright contact the police because some victims don’t feel comfortable doing so immediately, or ever depending on the person and the crime. By stressing the SARP first, BU is putting the mental health of these young women first.

  • Victim on 11.19.2012 at 11:42 am

    “None of the women have been physically injured.” This is not true, while I did not go to the hospital, my knee was swollen with liquid for at minimum 4 days and very badly scraped up. It’s concerning this was not made public knowledge sooner.

    • anonymous on 11.19.2012 at 12:30 pm

      I’m sorry to hear about what you have suffered. Thank you for having the courage to speak out! You are a brave and strong woman.

  • AGP on 11.19.2012 at 12:14 pm

    I hate to be unduly negative, but why weren’t students notified five or six weeks ago?

    • Manuel on 11.19.2012 at 1:05 pm

      Because BU is more concerned with preventing underage drinking, thank preventing assaults.

  • SigChi on 11.19.2012 at 12:24 pm

    ok first off i don’t want to draw attention away from how terrible this is, but i do want to point out how bu is always jumping to conclusions. “Police believe the suspect is acting alone. Initially they thought the incidents might be part of a hazing ritual. ” seriously? why assume its a hazing ritual. sigma chi does not haze and neither do any of my friends frats. greek life is a philanthropic organization, its not just parties. put your money where your mouth is and do some actual service work before you discredit thigns and assume terrible crimes are hazing rituals.

  • Jess on 11.19.2012 at 12:59 pm

    they thought it was a hazing ritual? seriously? and even if it had been, why would that make it any less important to report? when the first robbery happened recently, it was immediately reported even though it could have been a single incident — obviously none of the other robberies had happened at the time — so why is would TWO assaults in one night not be something worth reporting? bullshit and a complete disregard for women’s safety in an area that’s even closer to campus than that first robbery was.

    also, can we cut it with the racial profiling? it is a human right to be walking down the street, like maureen said, and that means it’s also a human right for “hispanic” people to do it too, without being stopped by the cops because of their race. the racial profiling during the robberies was disgusting and as students, we should demand that the cops who are there to “serve and protect” us are doing that and not making less privileged members of our community feel alienated and targeted.

    the way this whole thing has been handled is disgusting. i hope the survivors of these attacks are doing well or getting the help they need. no one should ever have to go through this.

    • Anon on 11.19.2012 at 3:19 pm

      Hate to tell you but Hispanics and African Americans are minorities at BU. This is valuable information in protecting one’s self. I’m all for being progressive but not at the cost of my safety or valuable information.

      • Jess on 11.19.2012 at 10:58 pm

        you don’t hate to tell me this — you love the fact that this gives you an excuse to “justify” your racism. people of color deserve the same rights as the young women at bu and everyone else. it’s racial profiling to pull anyone who looks like they might fit the description off the street when they’re just minding their own business. these groups may be minorities at bu but that doesn’t mean we or the cops should assume any and all of them might be involved in criminal activity and use that as an excuse to harass them.

  • K.O on 11.19.2012 at 2:31 pm

    This really boils my blood. I hate to see this happen to the young women of BU. I know BU has a service where they will walk people home from any point on campus but would it be at all possible to extend this service a bit into Allston. Heck, I’d volunteer one of my weekend nights to help out some students in need. The BU campus itself typically feels very safe, but it isn’t the BU campus people are worried about; it is the allston/brighton area.

    • Jess on 11.20.2012 at 10:31 am

      we also really need to do something about negotiating medical amnesty. people who’ve been drinking underage are less likely to report assaults or call the escort service because they’re worried about getting in trouble.

  • Nathan on 11.20.2012 at 10:42 am

    THE PHOTO is a picture from the corner of Ashford and Malvern directly across the street from the Softball field and looking towards the BU Athletic & Track center. Taken from low to the ground to make it look like this is a scary hill.

    How does showing a photo of the BU campus illustrate the dangers an inability for BU Police to work on off-campus incidents.

  • Orly? on 11.29.2012 at 11:10 am

    Wow! You’ve solved all of our problems! It was the *photo* all along!

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