Violence on campus trails sparks fear in community

In light of the recent violence on the trail systems near UAA, students who walk, bike or run these trails are becoming more cautious.

UAA international studies major Madeline Neel uses the trail daily to get to and from class.

“I love the trail system behind UAA … l walk there still, but not as frequently,” Neel said.

In the last few months, assaults and suspicious activity have reported on or near the university campus. A sexual assault near the Mosquito Lake trail on the Alaska Pacific University campus was reported April 7. Anchorage Police Department and the University Police department are jointly investigating the assault.

“Last year, when my friend was at the dorms, her and I would walk the trails almost every day at all hours of the day or night. We never ran into anyone else, and it became almost a meditative experience. We could easily go out and enjoy the nature to ourselves,” Neel said.

But last year Neel noticed more homeless camps and foot traffic on the trails, so her path through the woods has changed.

“There seem to be more tents hidden or in-use in the woods. Once we’re on the trail it seems ‘safe,’ but we’ve learned to stay away from the typical trail heads, or from Goose Lake where we’ve noticed a lot of questionable foot traffic comes through,” Neel said.

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”I actually avoid the trails to get to class. That’s why I use my car all the time,” said UAA music student Joy Kil. “From all the incidents that have been happening lately, I’m not going to take my chances. Students should not even have to be worried about their safety when they go to class, but it’s a good thing that the campus police are notifying us when and where an incident happens.”

The University of Alaska Police Department is following the protocol for when violence erupts on or near campus and is contacting students and faculty via email. UPD is reminding students to walk in pairs and avoid anything one sees as suspicious.

Christie Grenier, a computer science major at UAA, has used the trails to get to class for two years now has noticed a pattern when it comes to the trails and this time of the year.

“I don’t think it’s actually getting worse. I just think it’s because of the time of year. Seems like crime usually has a bit of a surge when spring comes. … Last year was similar. Yes, I walk to school a lot, but I don’t usually worry about my safety during the day so it hasn’t stopped me from doing that, just got to make sure to steer clear of parks and trails once it starts getting dark, especially if I’m alone. Some areas are worse than others,” Grenier said.

The trails are available for not only all UAA students, but for the public as well.

When walking the trail systems, it is recommended to walk in pairs during the daytime, and to be aware of one’s surroundings. No one should have to worry about getting assaulted when utilizing the trails, but preventative measures are suggested.