Correction: It is important to note that VCU Police did not and do not have jurisdiction of the Laurel street bridge/Oregon Hill area, where at least one of these incidents allegedly occurred. Generally speaking, if an individual wants to pursue criminal charges they have to file a report with the agency where the offense occurred. In this instance, Richmond Police had and has jurisdiction over the locations in question.
On Oct. 28 at 9:30 p.m., junior advertising major Meredith Berger was walking to the library from her home in Oregon Hill when she was warned of a man publicly masturbating on the South Laurel St. Bridge.
“I was about to cross the bridge that is on Laurel going over the highway in Oregon Hill and was stopped by this girl,” Berger said. “She told me I should cross the street because there was this guy publicly masturbating.”
According to Berger, the young woman who stopped her seemed disturbed by the incident.
“She was really upset by this and she was really very adamant that I be on the other side of the street and not deal with him,” Berger said. “She was really nice though and made a lot of effort to stop me.”
Both Berger and her roommate, junior interior design major Noshin Faruque, described this man as African American, medium build and medium height in his late 30s to early 40s.
Faruque said she has come across this suspect five times.
I’ve had to buy a bike because of him. I used to walk,” Faruque said. “I got hit by a car because I saw him during the day for the first time.”
In one of the encounters with the man, Faruque said that he was exposing himself to the street while urinating in the daytime. Farque said that after her first encounter with the suspect, she called VCU Police Department right away.
According to both Faruque and Berger, filing reports with VCU PD has caused more harm than good.
Berger didn’t want to file a report of the incident because of the additional work and distraction that the process took from her studies.
I don’t have the time to call the police and sit there with this dude who is going to leave and deal with the whole transaction when I’m trying to study for midterms,” Berger said.
Faruque reported the incidents to the VCU PD and said she was dissatisfied with the results.
“I did report it and nothing was being done,” Faruque said. “I went back to VCU PD and they told me to check with a different number so the process was even longer.”
Discouraged by the difficulty of the process, Faruque stopped trying to report the incident until she encountered the man again.
“He was looking at me. He recognized me. And that’s when I went in person to VCU PD myself,” Faruque said. “I yelled at them because they did not take my report seriously.”
Because this incident occurred off campus, VCU PD had no jurisdiction in the matter. Faruque had to be referred to the Richmond Police Department before action could be taken.
“They referred me to Richmond PD,” Faruque said. “They took care of it, they had detectives, they called me, they wanted to identify what he looked like, and I did notice they were patrolling weekly here and there.”
Although this incident took place outside the jurisdiction of VCU PD, Faruque said they were unable to help her is a failure of the police department to protect students effectively.
“I should not have to go through different process as a VCU student,” Faruque said. “When I am actually seeking for help, I have rights for my safety and protection. They are not doing their actual job.”
Faruque said she felt as though VCU PD was given the prerogative to act and failed to do its due diligence in taking care of her needs.
“To know that I’m asking for help for my protection and safety and I’m not getting what I want from the person who is supposed to do that, it has to stop,” Faruque said.
According to Berger, this incident has made her more cautious when walking through her neighborhood.
“It definitely makes me realize how much I need to be concerned,” Berger said. “I thought Oregon Hill was a little safer than what has been happening lately.”
This year, six incidents of indecent exposure have been reported to VCU PD. Both VCU and Richmond police departments were unavailable to respond before press time.
Article by: Andrew Crider, Contributing Writer