By Letitia Stein
TAMPA Fla. (Reuters) – Attacks on four women recently around the University of Florida’s campus in Gainesville prompted officials on Monday to ramp up security measures as they search for the suspect.
The attacks all targeted white women in their 20s who were current or former students, authorities said. The incidents happened on or near the sprawling campus during nighttime hours.
“These women are getting grabbed up from behind. They are being thrown down violently. They are being attacked, and this guy is running when there is a struggle,” Linda Stump, chief of police at the University of Florida, told reporters on Monday.
In each incident, the attacker was scared off before a sexual assault occurred, she said.
Authorities believe a white man, about 6 feet tall and 200 to 240 pounds, is responsible for the attacks, the first of which occurred on Aug. 30. The fourth woman was attacked on Sunday night.
The suspect often wore clothing promoting university athletics, authorities said, which would make it easy for him to blend in on campus.
The university increased security on campus, which spans 2,000 acres and enrolls some 50,000 students, including more nighttime patrolling.
The attacks prompted concern in a community that still remembers the murders of five Gainesville students in 1990 by serial killer Danny Rolling.
Students are encouraged to walk in pairs and to use a nighttime escort service. University officials are also promoting a mobile app that can be used to call police with the tap of a button.
“We understand your method of operation,” Stump warned the attacker at a Monday news conference. “We’re coming after you.”
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Eric Beech)
[Image via WESH-TV]