Alleged sexual assault & robbery crimes on campus in under 10-hours.

Within 10 hours, two unrelated crimes – a strong-arm robbery and an alleged sexual assault – were committed at Santa Monica College last week. In both cases, campus police apprehended all suspects shortly after the incidents occurred. Sergeant Jerry Romano of the Santa Monica College Police Department said that this week’s incidents were anomalies.

At 7:10 p.m. last Wednesday evening, an SMC student was the victim of an alleged strong-arm robbery. According to a report released by college police, two male juveniles pulled a cell phone from a female victim’s hand near the Quad area of the college’s main campus at 1900 Pico Blvd.

While the victim lost her balance and fell while trying to maintain control of the phone, she was not injured, according to police.

An SMCPD officer on a bike witnessed the attack and pursued the suspects, requesting back up. A perimeter was set up to stop the fleeing suspects, who were later apprehended in a van after officers recognized one of the juveniles in the vehicle.

The suspect was taken into custody during a subsequent stop, which resulted in the arrest of five other individuals on various felony charges, including the recovery of drugs intended for sale.

The only name, which has been released, is that of 40-year-old Arturo Viray, an African American man from Carmel, charged with the possession of illegal drugs for sale. He is also reported to have had a felony warrant out for his arrest for parole violation.

Among the suspects was a minor, an African American male from Harbor City, charged with Grand Theft Person, Resisting Obstructing or Delaying an Officer, and an African American male minor from Bellflower, charged with Conspiracy to Commit a Crime, and Resisting Obstructing or Delaying an officer.

Less than ten hours later, at 5:37 a.m. last Thursday, an SMC student was the victim of an alleged sexual assault.

The alleged attack took place in the HSS building, when the student walked in and found a man waiting in a stall.

According to a report released by the school, the victim managed to escape when a sound startled her alleged attacker. She ran to a classified worker on campus.

The alleged assailant is a 20-40 year old African American man, who was taken into custody after being identified by the victim.

At 12:30 p.m. last Thursday, she was released from the hospital. In a telephone interview, Sgt. Jerry Romano of the SMCPD could not confirm whether or not she sustained injuries during the alleged attack.

“It was a double edged sword, because she must have thought she was lucky the restrooms were open, because they are normally locked,” said Sgt. Romano. “And then this happens.”

According to SMC Director of Operations Jeffrey Peterson, the custodian in charge of the restrooms came to work earlier than usual for a meeting, and is believed to have unlocked the restroom doors at approximately 5:30 a.m.

Seven minutes later, the alleged sexual attack occurred. According to the college police, in California there is no law prohibiting a man from being in a woman’s restroom as long as he’s not engaging in lewd conduct.

As of Tuesday, the suspect had been released, according to Sgt. Richard Lewis of the Santa Monica Police Department. City police are now investigating the incident.

The Santa Monica Annual Report on Crime released earlier this month cited that crime, which had decreased by 4.8 percent in 2011, was on the rise this year.

In an interview earlier in the week, Sgt. Romano stated that the most prevalent crime on campus was theft of personal belongings left unattended, like laptops.

“We are not hiding in donut shops, but working hard to prevent crime on campus,” said Sgt. Romano. He also said that he had as many as four officers on bicycles, two on motorcycles, several patrolmen on foot, and up to 30 parking enforcement officers throughout SMC’s main and satellite campuses.

“We also have many ears and eyes on campus in the form of student workers in light blue uniforms carrying radios to call in crimes,” Sgt. Romano said.

The Corsair could not immediately reach city police for comments on crime statistics for beat seven and eight, the area immediately outside of SMC’s main campus.

“I strongly caution students to be very careful when they leave campus, especially along Pico corridor. It has a lot of crime that is outside of our jurisdiction,” Sgt. Romano said.

Campus police urge students to stay in well lit, well traveled and populated areas, lock car doors, and walk in pairs with friends or others. At night, campus police escorts are available by calling 310–434–4300.