By Daniel Correia

The Santa Cruz Police Department co-hosted a community meeting Feb. 1 to address a series of recent attacks against local women.

Seven women have been accosted in the past two months, including one who was stabbed multiple times while jogging on West Cliff Drive.

The goal of the meeting was to raise awareness about the various measures community members can take to keep themselves safe, as well as to provide information on the current status of investigations.

“We and the city had received inquiries as to the status of the cases and how women can keep themselves safe,” SCPD Spokesperson Zach Friend said. “We wanted to create a forum for asking those questions.”

The Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women (CPVAW) gave a short presentation on basic self-defense strategies and encouraged women to take self-defense classes.

“In an ideal world everyone would feel safe and be safe at home and on the streets,” said Laney Sherman, who teaches self-defense courses through CPVAW and at UC Santa Cruz. “Until we live in that kind of world it’s important for women and everyone to learn skills to be safe.”

The CPVAW offers self-defense classes for children, women, and seniors as well as an instructional pepper spray course. It also supports a program called the Safe Places Network that invites businesses to allow women who feel threatened to consider various shops as safe havens from potential assailants.

“It’s a lot of things businesses would do anyways,” said Kathy Agnone, co-coordinator for CPVAW. “But it’s a way to build awareness and to build a network of information between businesses.”

After the self-defense demonstrations, Lieutenant Rick Martinez of the SCPD presented as much information on the ongoing investigations as possible. The police department doesn’t believe any of the attacks are related, but hopes to make an arrest in one of the cases by the end of the week. Two of the attacks involved men who impersonated police officers to target women.

“A person has a number of rights and things to look for,” Friend said. “It matters to the department that people take the department seriously, because then they might not stop for a real police officer.”

Around 75 people attended the meeting, including police, residents and media.

Steven Smith, a Santa Cruz resident and father of three girls, distributed information packets about rape and other violent crimes in Santa Cruz.

“It’s all about galvanizing the community,” Smith said. “Once the ball is rolling, awareness rises and the money starts flowing where it needs to go.”