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Release: Aug. 3, 2001

UI Department of Public Safety initiates sex crimes unit

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- After some 10 months of training and in an effort to better serve the university community, the University of Iowa Department of Public Safety's new Sex Crimes Unit (SCU) will officially begin duty Monday, Aug. 20.

Composed of seven specially selected officers, the SCU is designed to provide victims of sexual assault with the most effective investigative services that specially trained police officers can offer -- at any hour, 365 days a year. SCU officers will provide a variety of services, including making referrals for services, facilitating medical treatment, collecting evidence, conducting on-campus investigations involving sex crimes, and coordinating efforts between assisting agencies and the Johnson County Attorney's Office. University officials say the SCU will be a welcome service for all students, staff and faculty concerned about maintaining personal safety.

"It is our opinion that on a campus this size with a large female population, many of whom are away from their homes for the first time, it is imperative that we provide expertise in this area around the clock, seven days a week," said Chuck Green, director, UI Department of Public Safety.

As SCU coordinator, Sergeant Mary Jo Lessmeier will bring 15 years of experience in investigating sex crimes to the new unit. "In times past, we have tended to rely on one person to investigate sexual assault cases. We will now be capable of serving the UI community at any hour with a team of trained specialists," she said.

SCU members began their training in October 2000. Their preparation to serve with the SCU included working with the staffs of the UI's Rape Victim Advocacy Program and the Johnson County Attorney's Office, as well as attending the Iowa Sex Crimes Investigators' Conference hosted by the Division of Criminal Investigation.