Police chief admits error in reporting alleged rape

UNA police Chief Bob Pastula said he should have reported an alleged rape on campus earlier than he did. The incident was reported in the late afternoon of Sept. 26, and a campus alert did not go out until late afternoon of Sept. 28.

“That was an error in thinking,” he said. “I probably should have released something earlier. I was trying to gather more information instead of less because of the 15-hour time lapse (between the crime and when it was reported).”

An alleged sexual assault occurred between 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m. Sept. 26 in the campus parking deck, according to a campus-wide email sent the afternoon of Sept. 28 from Pastula. However, Pastula later confirmed that the incident was alleged rape.

Pastula said he released the alert to campus two days after the event because he thought it would be better to gather more information first.

However, a full police report is not necessary to send out a LionAlert, Pastula said.

Pastula confirmed the incident was an alleged rape, but said the official police report documented it as sexual assault. But when The Flor-Ala requested the document, the charge was listed as first-degree rape on the report.

“There wasn’t a change,” Pastula said. “Rape and sexual assault are the same thing.”

According to Title 13A, Article 4, of the Code of Alabama, rape is a type of sexual assault, but sexual assault is not a crime someone can be charged with. The campus crime logs — available on the UNA police website — identify the alleged rape as sexual assault, while the official police report identifies it as first-degree rape.

“I don’t take these things at all lightly,” said David Shields, UNA vice president of student affairs. “I don’t want one person on campus to think that sexual assault is minimal or that it has been marginalized.”

No suspects have been identified, but UNA police have a few leads, Pastula said.

“We’re still not even sure it happened in the deck,” he said. “We have a few leads from people who were on campus at the time, but we don’t have anything concrete yet.”

Officials said they believe the alleged rape occurred near the breezeway that connects Stevens Hall and Floyd Science Building to the parking deck.

Details are still unclear to UNA police, Pastula said.

“We’re still not clear on exactly what occurred that night,” he said. “We know the victim was leaving the library, but, from what I gather, the incident occurred not in the deck, but close to it.”

Two UNA officers were on duty at the time of the alleged rape, Pastula said.

The victim, a female UNA student, reported the alleged rape later in the afternoon Sept. 26, and, according to the email, UNA police are investigating the incident.

The student was walking from the breezeway to the parking deck when a man allegedly grabbed her backpack and forced her into the corner of the parking deck and raped her, Pastula said.

Pastula said he has been speaking with camera companies about buying cameras for the parking deck and other parts of campus, but he said cameras would not deter much crime.

“I’ve had camera companies in here for the last month, so that ball is rolling,” he said. “But cameras are really more of an investigative tool. Typically, they don’t deter (crimes).”

Cameras were in the original plans for the parking deck but were cut to save money on the final project costs, according to Times Daily articles from 2002. The issues of security and cameras in the deck have been raised since 2002, when members of the UNA community expressed concern about multiple crimes in the deck in stories published in the Times Daily.

Cameras can deter some crimes, said Craig Robertson, professor of sociology and director of the professional and interdisciplinary studies program.

“If the cameras are well-maintained and placed with clear view to areas where activity is likely, then they can have a deterrent value,” he said. “Research has shown that stores that place cameras in locations where shoppers can see them had a decrease in loss to theft.”

Robertson said the effectiveness of surveillance can decrease over time.

“Knowledge of cameras may be acquired over time, and offenders may move to areas where the line of sight is blocked,” he said. “Some offenders may adjust their techniques, and the deterrent value of the cameras could decrease over time.”

Reducing offender motivation and providing a sense of guardianship is the best way to deter crimes, Robertson said.

“Cameras should provide a sense of guardianship, which should decrease the motivation of offenders,” he said. “We can do a lot of things to deter offenders, and providing a sense of guardianship is the best way to do that.”

In response to the incident, there are more officers on patrol and on the street, Pastula said. Students should take precautions to keep themselves safe, he said.

“Call SNAP; call campus police,” he said. “It’s all about being proactive.”

Stay with The Flor-Ala as this story develops.