Two attempted abductions reported in past week

Charlottesville Police don’t believe there is a connection between the two incidents at this time

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 The first abduction attempt was reported early Friday morning after a female victim was walking alone on Wertland Street at about 2 a.m. 

Lauren Hornsby | Cavalier Daily

Two abduction attempts have been reported to the Charlottesville Police Department within the past week. 

University Chief of Police Michael Gibson informed the University community of the incidents, shortly after they were reported to Charlottesville Police, through emails sent early Friday morning and Sunday night.

According to the email, the first incident was reported early Friday morning after a female victim was walking alone on Wertland Street at about 2 a.m. when “an unknown male approached her from behind, covered her mouth, and took her to the ground.” 

The suspect proceeded to threaten the victim, but fled the scene when a passerby heard the victim’s screams and was reported to be traveling eastbound, away from Grounds.

The Charlottesville Police Department also issued a media release about the incident, stating the suspect was described to be a “white male with brown hair and a stocky build … also wearing dark clothing.” 

According to a press release from the Charlottesville Police Department, the most recent incident involved a similar set of circumstances.

The incident was reported Sunday night after a female victim was walking alone on West Water Street around 8 p.m. when a “male suspect came up behind her, grabbed her and placed his hand over her mouth.” The victim proceeded to scream, causing the suspect to let her go and then flee the area heading east on Water Street. 

According to the press release, the suspect was described as a black male “in his mid-20`s, heavy set or stocky build and 5 [feet] 06 [inches] to 5 [feet] 07 [inches] tall” and was described as wearing “a black hooded jacket or sweatshirt with a black center and dark red or maroon sleeves.”

According to Charlottesville Police Lt. Steve Upman, the two abduction incidents are not believed to be related in any way at this time. 

“At this time we don't believe they are related,” Upman said. “The suspect in the Wertland Street incident was described as a white male, the suspect in the Water Street incident was described as a black male. However, as investigators move forward in their case, they’ll compare notes just to make sure nothing is missed.”

Upman also said he was aware of potential connections between Sunday night’s incident and one reported to University Police Oct. 18 — due to similar suspect descriptions involving a red sleeved hoodie —  in which an “unidentified male was seen watching and potentially filming a female student in a shower stall” at McCormick Road dormitories. 

“It is my understanding they [University Police Department] had an incident back on the [Oct.] 18th,” Upman said. “That was why they put out the community alert related to last night’s attempted abduction because there were some descriptors that matched up to what they had. As we move forward in our investigation, information becomes available and as it’s pertinent to their case, we’ll share that with them [UPD] just as they would with us.”

Upman said he had not yet spoken with the Charlottesville Police Department’s patrol bureau regarding increased police presence in the areas of the attempted abductions.

“I haven't had an opportunity to speak with our patrol bureau,” Upman said. “Obviously they are aware of the incident, but extra patrols are going to be contingent upon staffing and calls for service.”

Student Council released a statement Sunday evening, saying they are “deeply concerned” by the reported attempted abductions. According to the statement, Student Council President Sarah Kenny, a fourth-year College student, will be meeting with Pat Lampkin, the vice president of Student Affairs, and Gibson on the issue.

“Our community must constantly stay alert and look out for one another,” the statement read. “Your safety is our number one concern.”

Katie Brandon, a Batten graduate student and the Student Council’s director of University relations, declined to offer further comment on the abduction attempts beyond the Council’s released statement, but added that the Council is “working closely with the administration and police department to improve student awareness and safety regarding these matters.”

Jessica Strang — web communications specialist for the Office of the Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer — spoke on behalf of Lampkin about the reported abduction attempts in an email to The Cavalier Daily.

“The University has a robust set of systems to promote safety and security on Grounds,” Strang said. She noted several resources, including the UPD, University Ambassadors and surveillance cameras around the University’s perimeter. 

Regarding the vice president’s office working with Student Council to address student safety concerns in light of the reported attempted abductions, Strang did not mention the specifics of their joint agenda moving forward but said the two often cooperate on student safety. 

“We meet with Student Council weekly to discuss student safety and other concerns,” Strang said. 

Authorities are encouraging anyone with additional information about these situations to contact the Charlottesville Police Department or call Crime Stoppers at 434-977-4000.

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