Police: USC now added to list of places where women are being followed by strangers

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - After multiple women reported being followed and harassed while shopping at places like Walmart and Columbiana Center, now we're learning that investigation is even bigger.

Columbia police confirm they are working with the University of South Carolina Police Department on a similar incident, but students say, for the most part, they feel safe on campus. That's thanks to the high police presence, and features like emergency call boxes.

"There are emergency lights on every corner. Cops are normally just like driving around. Nothing's ever happened to me or my friends," USC freshman Melanie Cronk said.

Students say college campuses already have a bad reputation.

"You always hear college is like such a scary place to be," USC freshman Richelle Thompson said.

Now, they're learning reports of women being followed and harassed by strangers could also be happening on USC's campus.

"It's kind of a scary thought like being in college. You're away from your family and your safety net and you have to basically not fend for yourself, but learn to grow up," Thompson said.

Still, most students say they're confident in the safety of their school and their student body.

"There's always a building you can go into if you do feel like nervous and all the students are really like nice around here. So, if you do feel like scared about anyone following you, you can walk over to anyone and tell them that you're concerned," Cronk said.

Students also say they're aware that living on campus is almost like living in a bubble.

"This is our little world, but anybody can walk onto campus," Thompson said. "Anybody can come talk to you, sit in your lecture and you don't know who this person in. You just think they're a student."

USC provided the following statement:

"Ensuring the safety of students is top priority, and we encourage students to notify campus law enforcement if they believe their safety or that of fellow students may be at risk. We are unable to provide specific details on the case referenced because it is still an open investigation."

They also provide this list of safety tips on their website:

  • Trust your instincts. If a place or situation doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Leave.
  • Avoid shortcuts and isolated areas when walking after dark.
  • Don’t walk alone after dark. Early evening to late evening, travel only in groups of three or more in well lit and heavily traveled areas. Use the APO Escort Services (803.777.DUCK) or call for a police escort (803.777.4215).
  • When traveling in your vehicle, keep windows up and doors locked.
  • If approached, don’t resist a robber especially if he/she has a weapon.
  • Never venture into or through dark or undesirable neighborhoods.
  • Familiarize yourself with call box locations.
  • Don’t carry large sums of cash.
  • Get a good description of the attacker and locate a safe area in the event of an encounter.
  • If attacked or approached by someone suspicious, contact the police immediately by calling 911 or use the nearest call box.

For additional safety advice and tips, contact Sgt. Kenny Adams at 803-777-0855. If you are a victim or witness of a crime, you can call Cpl. Mary Winnington at 803-777-6472 for assistance.

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