The Department of Public Safety issued a crime alert to the University community Sunday following multiple reports of sexual battery incidents to inform the campus of important safety precautions and to ask students to come forward with any information about the reported incidents.
The alert detailed three similar incidents of sexual fondling that occurred from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4 at different locations in the area surrounding campus. DPS believes the incidents are related.
In each incident, a student described a suspect in a hoodie on a bike approached victims from behind and slapped their buttocks.
DPS Assistant Chief David Carlisle said the nature of the harrassment and the similarity of method result in DPS potentially looking for one perpetrator.
The first incident took place on campus on Sept. 30 when the victim, a USC student leaving campus on Figueroa Street, was approached by the suspect on a bike and “felt a hard slap to her buttocks.”
A similar incident took place near the Shrine Auditorium Oct. 1 when another USC student walking alone was similarly approached and harrassed.
The third incident took place on campus Oct. 4 when a USC student returning from an event was walking toward the Royal Street Structure “when a male riding a bicycle behind her grabbed her buttocks.”
Carlisle said DPS is currently investigating the incidents and searching for a suspect.
“These types of conflicts occur periodically,” Carlisle said. “Typically [they involve] different suspects, but when they happen in succession like this, we suspect it may be the same person.”
Two of the victims described a Hispanic male in his 20s with black shoulder-length hair riding a dark-colored bicycle. The crime alert also noted that “race, ethnicity, gender, and/or religious affiliations are not considered the basis for suspicion; only behaviors are considered suspicious.”
Carlisle suggested that students should always remain aware of their surroundings and travel in well-lit areas in groups after dark. He also advised students to take advantage of the various transportation services provided by the University, such as the free Lyft service and Campus Cruiser.
“We would hope that [victims] would report immediately and any witnesses would come forward … so we can look for additional evidence such as a better description,” Carlisle said. “If the person calls right away on our emergency number, perhaps we can catch the person at the time the incident occurs.”
DPS said the investigation is ongoing and has been forwarded to the Los Angeles Police Department. Officials are currently going through surveillance cameras to see if there is any footage they could use to identify the suspect.