Campus confronts safety concerns in aftermath of Uber driver’s sexual assault of student

Students and law enforcement are addressing campus safety concerns in the wake of an Uber driver’s alleged sexual assault of an SMU student last month.

Students have concerns about safety both on and off campus. Freshman Kaia Brown purchased a Birdie keychain safety whistle after hearing about the assault.

“I don’t want the same thing to happen to me,” Brown stated. “You never know if it’s going to be you.”

Students were jarred by the news of the assault mid-October, she said.

“We were just alarmed in general. We live on this campus and want to feel safe at our school.”

There have been five reported sexual assaults on SMU’s campus since January, according to SMU’s crime log. All five cases occurred in or outside of on-campus student housing buildings.

Another separate arrest was made the day before the alleged sexual assault. A student was offered a ride by a male on SMU Boulevard, who then requested sex and refused to let her go. The two incidents sparked concerns among students about the safety of SMU’s campus.

The investigation is ongoing in the sexual assault case involving the Uber driver.

“The reported actions of the driver are horrifying, and he has been deactivated from the Uber platform,” A spokesperson for Uber stated. “We stand ready to assist law enforcement with their investigation.”

Court documents revealed that Anselmo Amil Contreras, 50, the Uber driver who was arrested Oct. 14 for allegedly sexually assaulting an SMU student while driving her home, is a Mexican citizen and entered the United States illegally. Contreras is in ICE custody and will be deported, according to court documents. He was charged with second degree felony sexual assault.

The alleged assault occurred on the 3100 block of Daniel Avenue, in close proximity to SMU's sorority houses.
The alleged assault occurred on the 3100 block of Daniel Avenue, in close proximity to SMU's sorority houses. Photo credit: Google Maps

According to a police report obtained by The Daily Campus, the victim told police she fell asleep in the Uber driver’s car on the way home and woke up to him sexually assaulting her. The alleged assault occurred on the 3100 block of Daniel Avenue, often referred to as “sorority row.”

The victim said she was able to exit the vehicle and Contreras walked her to the front door of her sorority house, documents stated.

The victim called her brother shortly after the assault, according to court documents. The victim’s brother, who lives close to campus, had ordered the Uber for her earlier in the night and obtained a picture of the driver, vehicle description and license plate from the Uber app. He was able to track down the driver and follow him to a location on the 5500 block of Greenville Ave.

The police report states that the victim’s brother then flagged down a Dallas police officer, who was able to detain Contreras.

SMU police officer Jesse Carr says SMU PD is taking the situation very seriously.

“We want people to know that this is something we’re not going to tolerate,” Carr said. “Those types of actions, that type of behavior is not something that we are going to allow to exist on SMU’s campus.”

SMU PD is not increasing officer staffing numbers or reevaluating protocol in the wake of the alleged assaults on students and resulting arrests made in October, Carr said.

SMU is seeking the opinion of the Texas Attorney General concerning the release of case documents requested from SMU PD by The Daily Campus regarding both arrests made in October. The university is citing student privacy concerns and says releasing the documents could interfere with SMU PD’s ongoing investigations in both cases. The Daily Campus was granted access to all of Contreras’ relevant case documents by Dallas County.

Students can go to Bob Smith Health Center 24/7 and have access to SANE services.
Students can go to Bob Smith Health Center 24/7 and have access to SANE services. Photo credit: SMU

SMU recently implemented a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) to provide free 24/7 sexual assault exams and services at the Bob Smith Health Center on campus. The program is a collaboration between the university, SMU Student Senate and The Turning Point.

Kate Morales, co-director of Sexual Assault Prevention at SMU, says the program “not only provides medical care but also empowers students to self-advocate and take the first steps towards receiving the justice they deserve.” The program is the result of months of planning and hard work, crediting former Student Body President Molly Patrick for spearheading the implementation of the program on campus, Morales said.

Morales is currently exploring ways to make nightlife safer at SMU.

“That is one of the most prevalent spaces where sexual violence occurs,” she said.

She is working to identify venues in the Dallas area that are consistently resulting in dangerous experiences for students, as well as minimizing the use of date rape drugs.

SMU PD wants to emphasize that their top priority is student safety and supporting victims of sexual assault.

Carr added that SMU PD is more than willing to escort students across campus at night to ensure they get home safely. “If you need to walk to your sorority house from the library at three in the morning and TapRide is not available, call us and we will come give you a ride,” Carr said.

He stressed that if students are in any situation where they do not feel safe, they should not hesitate to call SMU PD.

Carr said that students need to be aware of their surroundings at all times, emphasizing that in many cases, people are sexually assaulted by either someone they know or a recent acquaintance.

Carr also advised students to have SMU PD’s direct phone numbers saved on their phone (Non-emergency: 214-768-3388; Emergency: 214-768-3333). He also recommends students have the LiveSafe app downloaded onto their phones which allows students to easily call and direct message SMU PD in times of emergency.

Students should call 1-800-886-7273 to request a SANE Exam 24/7.