Criminals operating near University residence halls have a new enemy: the community.
University Police Chief Joy Rikala and Detective Charles Miner gathered with about 15 Territorial Hall residents and staff Wednesday evening to praise them for their quick reaction to a November sexual assault in the dormitory.
After a juvenile who called himself “Lucky” allegedly sexually assaulted an 18-year-old University student in the hall Nov. 12, fast-acting residents and staff disbursed 150 description fliers within 24 hours of the incident.
University Police had Lucky in custody just four days later when a student night manager spotted him in Frontier Hall.
This community cooperation was the theme of the meeting.
“The only way we can feel safe here is if we all work together,” Rikala said.
She also handed out letters of thanks to each resident assistant gathered.
“This is the kind of action that really helps to set a standard, if you like, on what to do,” said Ralph Rickgarn, executive assistant for Housing and Residential Life.
“The award reflects students taking personal responsibility for their community,” said Laurissa Jeroslow, Territorial Hall director.
The assault occurred early Sunday morning during Homecoming weekend when a man entered the hall unescorted. He walked into the unlocked room of an 18-year-old student and began touching her. Staff member Chad Pahl asked Lucky to leave the building after he noticed the suspicious man wandering through the hall’s corridors.
The next morning the victim explained that she’d been sexually molested by Lucky, and Jeroslow immediately called an emergency council meeting.
She and others in the hall had the fliers describing the offender posted all around the Superblock by Sunday evening.
Ralph Rickgarn said the combined efforts of students and staff was unique.
“The Superblock has pulled together before,” Rickgarn said, “but it was mostly staff.”
He hopes to use the overwhelming reaction to the incident as a model for the future.
Since University Police caught the offender, Territorial Hall has taken measures to guard against future incidents. Staff monitor the sole entrance to the hall every Friday and Saturday night, only admitting people with room keys from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Lucky has been charged with sexual assault, and is being held in Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center.
“It was a group effort; they communicated well with each other,” said Miner.