Commentary: Sexual Assault at Community Park Has Community Concerned

photo courtesy DavisWiki
photo courtesy DavisWiki

Just over a month after a stabbing death at KetMoRee led to community concerns, conversations and city council action to address the late night downtown bar scene, another incident has many in the community concerned.

The police report is vague at this point. On Saturday, the Davis Police began investigating a sexual assault that allegedly occurred at Community Park.

According to their account, “a female UC Davis student in her early twenties, met three males at Bistro 33 on Thursday night. She was subsequently taken to a park in Davis where all three suspects sexually assaulted her. Investigators believe the attack occurred in the vicinity of Community Park.”

The suspects are described as:

  • A white male adult in his late 20s with a large build, shaggy/uncut brown or red hair, freckles on face, possibly wearing a red shirt and dark baseball hat;
  • A mixed-race male in his late 20s to early 30s with a muscular build. He might be taller than the first suspect, and has short dark hair and a trimmed beard; and
  • A white male adult in his late 20s.

Police Lt. Ton Phan told local media, “It’s a safe community, but yeah, we’ve had our share of violent crimes recently that have kept us busy.”

Mayor Dan Wolk told CBS 13 in Sacramento, “Enough is enough. We have a real problem here.” The news station reports that Mayor Wolk said that ‘he’s sick of hearing about crime increasing in Downtown, mostly after dark.’

The mayor sees this as an extension of the downtown party scene, a party destination in the region. He told CBS 13, “Our downtown is a certain way until around 10, 11, and then it becomes this different place.” He added, “I think everyone recognizes that we have an issue here and we have to address it.”

But, while the incident at KetMoRee had some simple answers, this incident is less clear cut. The measures that the city council is looking at – better security including wanding at night clubs, more foot patrols by police, better training and crowd control measures – do not seem likely to address this issue in this case.

From all accounts, the young lady met the men at Bistro 33. According to Assistant Police Chief Darren Pytel, the incident occurred after 11:30 pm.  From all accounts, it appears she willingly left with the men.

It is not clear, therefore, that any of the proposed changes would have impacted this incident.

In response to the KetMoRee incident, bars, according to Darren Pytel, are actually moving in the right direction now. As Darren Pytel, the Assistant Chief of the Davis Police Department, explained, “The problem was no one wanted to take the first step.” The bars were afraid that if they imposed new regulations and the others didn’t that would put them at a competitive disadvantage.

However, with the tragedy at KetMoRee, and the pushback from the community and the city council, the bars are belatedly getting their act together. Already several have implemented wanding at their locations.

This has had some success as it has prevented several knives from going into the facilities. As Darren Pytel put it, “So it’s larger than just Blondies. It’s about all the locations working together to improve safety and also send a message that weapons in downtown are not ok.”

The problem is these measures clearly would not have prevented this type of incident.

The city council, two weeks ago, voted narrowly to allow Blondies to move forward with an exemption to the moratorium the council put in place in late September in response to the KetMoRee tragedy.

Blondies will have to contract with a licensed armed security provider, or most likely the city of Davis, to provide supplemental police services on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 pm to 1:30 am (half an hour after the close of business).

The location will fundamentally change the way they provide service – they have to be equipped with adequate numbers of seats, and food will be made available at all times.

Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis, during the discussion on Blondies, called it “a shot across the bow,” or telegraphing how “things are probably going to go,” in terms of potential new permanent regulations.

He added, “I was actually thinking we’re not creating a nightclub if we set the conditions the way they’re set here. We’re pointing a direction to a future that’s going to be fundamentally different.”

As he pointed out later, “There’s a certain balance that should be struck.”

We need more information about what happened at Bistro 33 before assessing fully whether this incident would have been avoidable. Until then, we need to better assess the full situation downtown rather than simply looking at late night clubs.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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49 Comments

    1. Tia Will

      Tick…Tick….Tick

      I am waiting for people to awaken to the fact that we have a large population of youth ( and adults)  in our community who do not appreciate the dangers of the disinhibiting effect of alcohol and other recreational drugs. I have been in my Davis office 1/2 day this week and have had two cases so far of ” I need testing. I don’t know what happened because I blacked out”. For perspective I had 9 office appointments, two telephone appointments, and 11 electronic messages about other issues in the same amount of time.

      While it is true that stabbing or shooting is more likely to grab the headlines, community attention, and now, belatedly action on the part of business owners with the confiscation of weapons through wanding, I believe that we are too narrowly focused. While we do not know whether the current episode involved alcohol or drugs, I have ample evidence of this problem in my local office. Accepting that we have a major problem in our community with the abuse of alcohol and drugs which at times overlaps with the problem with violence in our community ( whether sexual or otherwise) is not an over reaction. It as an admission of our current situation and a call for responsible action.

      1. Barack Palin

        tick….tick…tick…..only 44 minutes later……

        Bistro has a bar but isn’t a night club as far as I know.  Just like Woodstocks which also has a bar but isn’t a night club.  Should we close them all down?  Are we to ban all alcohol in Davis because of a few fools?

        1. Tia Will

          BP

          Should we close them all down?  Are we to ban all alcohol in Davis because of a few fools?”

          Has anyone suggested anything even approaching this. If so, please include timing or link to this suggestion. If not, why the straw man argument ?

        2. Barack Palin

          Okay Tia, what would you have the city do in this situation?  There were no weapons involved as far as we know.  Should the city or the bars pay for chaperones for every lady that leaves a bar after dark?

      2. Mark West

        TW:  “we have a large population of youth ( and adults)  in our community who do not appreciate the dangers of the disinhibiting effect of alcohol and other recreational drugs.”

        Learning how to live responsibly and safely in an unsafe world is one of the things that every child (and adult) has to address. This isn’t new, and is not restricted to societies that allow access to alcohol and other recreational drugs.  Do you have any data that shows that the problem you describe is greater in Davis than elsewhere?  Thought not.

        “While we do not know whether the current episode involved alcohol or drugs, I have ample evidence…”

        Incident counting one morning in your office is not evidence of the extent of a problem in a population, it is only evidence that your two patients had a problem.  That is basic epidemiology (as well as simple math).  As you state yourself, we don’t know if drugs or alcohol were involved at all in this incident so your reaction is entirely based on your emotional involvement, not the facts.  BP had it right.

         

        1. Tia Will

          Do you have any data that shows that the problem you describe is greater in Davis than elsewhere?  Thought not.”

          Snide comment aside, your question is irrelevant. I would see this as a problem in any town if it were occurring where I happened to live. I do live in Davis. So this is where I act.

          “Incident counting one morning in your office is not evidence of the extent of a problem in a population,”

          This is not just two patients. This is an ongoing theme in our practice here in Davis where because of the make up of our population this is a daily recurring them. The three most common reasons for our daily requests for STD screening are:  symptoms, knowledge or concern that a partner has not been monogamous, and not knowing whether or not they are at risk because they “blacked out” from binge drinking and don’t know what happened because of that. Now you can claim that this is not a problem because you do not see it in your daily life. But I guarantee that it is a problem in our community, not from what I see at the nightclub scene directly, but from the sequelae that we see daily in our offices here.

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          I agree we have a problem, so please see my other comments. I was inebriated in the UCD dorms, young, and made a poor decision to do some foolish behavior. A few  days later I was meeting with the dorm authorities, and I claimed a black out as a way to avoid responsibility and answering uncomfortable questions. I was right out of high school and did something stupid. It was suggested that I seek help, but it was all a ruse, but being called on the carpet did get me to wake up to my silly behavior.

        3. Mark West

          “Now you can claim that this is not a problem”

          I made no such claim.  I was agreeing with BP that your response was a classic over reaction.  It would be foolish to claim that alcohol and drug abuse are not problems in society, they just aren’t anything unique to Davis and are not the most important health issues that we face today (and so far at least, they only have a speculative connection to today’s topic).  Your neo-prohibitionist rant was predictable however.

          “This is an ongoing theme in our practice”

          As would be expected for an OB/GYN.  The problem is that it is still just incident counting and says nothing about the prevalence of the issue in society as a whole.  You need the denominator in your equation to talk about the extent of the problem in the population. You only have information on the women who come into your practice and so the ‘ample evidence’ that you claimed for a “major problem in our community” is anecdotal at best.

          Responsible action requires responding to actual data, not just emotion driven tirades.    

           

      3. TrueBlueDevil

        The issues you note are one aspect. The second is a power imbalance of men in their late 20s / early 30s, preying on young college coeds. As students, we typically were juggling classes, life, and virtually no once had any time or twisted thinking to put together this kind of attack (if it is proven true). These kinds of occurrences happen when we become the Chico State of a metropolitan (Sacramento) area.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          No, facts. I don’t ever recall reading these stories – which seem to come more frequently – when we had a less active downtown bar scene. Never heard or saw a knife or gun in my extended time in Davis, never heard of a carload of criminals coming to rob undergrads, never heard of pipe-wielding criminals robbing students. I should add that for several years I read every California Aggie, Daily Democrat, and Enterprise that was put out while spending extensive time in the Coffee House.

        2. Mark West

          TBD: “No, facts. I don’t ever recall…”

          Your recollections are not facts, and just because you didn’t hear about something doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. In a similar vein, reading about something in the paper (or on the Internet) does not make it true.

        3. TrueBlueDevil

          I am not naive. Decades ago, I knew a wonderful young girl who was most likely raped in our dorm, but there was never any reported crime. When we heard an angry voice we called the dorm RA, she spoke to our friend inside, and she assured the RA that everything was fine between her and her older, hulking date. Days later she was a shell of her former bright self. She was shattered, timid, afraid. I knew of another instance at a fraternity, I am not blind.

          Today. I hear from alums, townies, teachers, students … it seems much different than 20 years ago. Most of the campus is still safe, but there is the new outside element, downtown, homeless, police reports, MS13 graffiti, etc. which says that things are different.

          I read two weeks back of a suicide in town on the police blotter that got no coverage. Very sad.

  1. Biddlin

    “Should the city or the bars pay for chaperones for every lady that leaves a bar after dark?”

    If I were the owner of a late night bar or club, I’d certainly offer it, to all my patrons.

    A club I play often, in Oakland, has offered this service for years.

    ;>)/

    1. Anon

      Actually, that is an interesting idea.  I know UCD offers Tipsy Taxi so that over-inebriated students can get back to their residents safely – if they choose to use these services.

      In the case of this girl, we just don’t have enough information to even know what happened.  Was she drunk, was she drugged, was she sober, why did she “agree” (or did she truly agree) to go with these three males, etc.?

  2. Frankly

    First, there is an alleged crime here.  As much as I am disgusted from the description of the alleged victim for what happened, until and unless there is enough reported evidence to prove this is what happened, I remain in a neutral position that we have a justified call for strong reaction.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      You are correct, there have been some high profile cases which have turned out to be fabrications.

      From what is described, is it possible something like a roofie was used? Sad, sad, sad.

  3. Davis Progressive

    i’m with frankly and bp here.  not sure how i got there, but it seems to me that the only way to have prevented this was to stop serving alcohol in bars. and if we do, don’t we just push this into the neighborhoods.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      You are mistaken on both points.

      1. These are the kinds of things that may happen if we become the party scene for the Sacramento / Vacaville metro area. There has always been drinking and youthful experimentation, what is different are three adult males (way past college years) preying on a naive college coed.

      2. If the downtown scene wasn’t so regional, if it were smaller, we’d have less outsiders, less imbalance, and 30 year olds don’t typically know where or aren’t invited to the local fraternity or apartment party.

      But who cares about undergrads when we can collect a few hundred thousands a year in tax revenues.

      1. Davis Progressive

        i’m not mistaken at all.  first of all, “naive college coed” – how the heck do you know if she’s naive?  you have an antiquated sense of world.  you know nothing about her.  and apparently you know nothing about the world.

        second, if the downtown wasn’t so regional, if it were smaller – goes against everything we’ve been trying to do as a community.  but you don’t know if those guys were “outsiders” as you like to call them.

         

         

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          I think many adults notice a vast difference in maturity between a 21 or 22 year old college coed, and a woman in her mid to late 20s, out in the real world. These are generalities by nature.

          You can have a more active downtown without it becoming Chico State. The KetMo murders were all outsiders, many of the sexual attacks at the Whole Earth Festival night time concerts were outsiders. We have a history here, it is not one isolated event.

        2. Frankly

          You can have a more active downtown without it becoming Chico State

          Actually, Davis is located in what is called a large urban metro area and Chico is not.

          Also, UCD is about twice the student population of Chico State.

          More of Chico’s bad element is home grown.  Davis is still a very expensive place to live, and low income people (that are over-represented in thuggish and criminal behavior) generally would live somewhere else like Sacramento, Woodland and Vacaville.

          Davis generally has to import most of our thugs and criminals.  And contrary to this narrative that it is the nightclubs, it is our property combined with our low number of police offers per capita.   Davis has high property crime, with low rates of violent crime.  And most of it is committed by visitors.

          I do agree with your interest to keep em’ out.

          But I think your interest does not sync with reality.  Related to that is the simple fact that as Davis has tried to resist growth the region has pretty much exploded in population.  And the Bay Area real estate prices have chased away many more low income people to the region.

          Just consider the hypothetical where Davis is located in between Stockton and Modesto.   Don’t you think we would have more thugs and criminals coming to town?

          Can the city implement ordinance and zoning to somehow reduce the number of outside visitors to the city?  Or can the city somehow filter the outside visitors to reduce the number of unwanted outside visitors?

          I think not… not without severely reducing the services demanded by many of our community members and it causing the negative consequences of more house parties and more people driving to Sacramento for nightlife.

          You might be willing to accept that, but many of us will not.  Those added house parties will also attract the outside element just more scattered all around the city instead of keeping it concentrated in the core retail area where we can at least apply some rules and get more policing help.  Killing the nightclubs kills the services that the student population wants… and they have a right to voice what they want just as everyone else that lives here should have a voice.

          I think instead of chasing this false sense that we can and should force the downtown back into a small village marketplace of yesteryear, we need to accept the reality of a more populated student body and region, and instead look for ways to manage it all better.

           

  4. Tia Will

    DP

    To take your comment even further, we have no idea if any of the individuals involved had been drinking. So to say that even stopping alcohol service in the bars is premature. We just plain need more information with regard to this particular circumstance.

    What I do not need more information about is the circumstance that I have encountered daily in my practice here for over 10 years. It was that experience, not this particular incident on which I based by suggestions.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      Tia, thank you for your feedback. Have you noticed a change in the past 10 years, a pattern, an increase? Have your colleagues mentioned a pattern?

      We used to have a small downtown with just a handful or less of active bars. Now we have a strip, and we have invited an outside element which brings a power imbalance to the equation. This rape was my fear, not monthly killings. It was nostalgic, quaint, nice to have a small college town where young people could gradually mature. Now we have purposefully or accidentally become a destination point for young, angry, testosterone-filled men.

      College used to be a transition point for many young adults before they moved to the big city. We seem to have lost some of that.

      1. UnclearColt

        “Now we have purposefully or accidentally become a destination point for young, angry, testosterone-filled men.”  

        You’ve got to be joking if you think Davis has become, in any real way, a destination point.  And besides that, people have ALWAYS been coming from other cities and committing crimes.  That’s a fact of life literally everywhere that is not completely closed to outsiders.  And most of the serious crimes of late have been committed by people from Davis (Dillon Marsh and Joseph Hein come to mind).

         

      2. Tia Will

        TBD

        In my highly anecdotal sample representing only my own practice and that of my office partners at the Davis Medical Office  I have seen the following change. It is not so much that I am doing more STD screening as that is the stock and trade of a gynecologist in a college town. It is that the third category ( those who don’t know if they need testing because of black outs ) has definitely increased with respect to the other two groups. I did ask this question directly of one of my office partners and she agreed.

        Now there are some important points to remember. This in no way proof that drinking to the point of blackout has increased. There could be a number of alternative explanations. We could have become more directive in our questioning about why they want the testing. They could have become more open about this behavior ( perhaps less stigma attached). But it is my perception that we are seeing this behavior more frequently and perhaps more alarmingly in younger and younger girls.

        I am also not presenting this as unique to Davis as a imagine that many college community offices face the same issue. Again, the point is not that this is something new, or that it is something unique to Davis. The point is that it is occurring here, this is where we live, and this is where we should take action.

        1. Barack Palin

          The point is that it is occurring here, this is where we live, and this is where we should take action.

          What do you have in mind?  What action could we possibly take to curtail college students from drinking?

      1. Davis Progressive

        if it just takes a handful, you’re entire argument has collapsed.

        “not many crimes happening at sushi places or at the movies or Davis Co-op.”

        and yet the movie theater checks for weapons.

        1. Barack Palin

          Nobody is sweeping it under any rug.  I’m not a liberal and I also don’t think there’s any need to be over-reacting to these incidents.  I think now a few people are trying to make hay out of these occurrences to try and get the night club scene cut back because they live in the vicinity.

        2. Davis Progressive

          “When did the liberal mindset evolve to accept rape and gang murders as acceptable behavior to be swept under the rug?”

          that’s just a strawman argument.  can’t stop ever crime from happening.  and when you try, you end up severely curtailing liberties for law abiding citizens.  it may simply be that there was nothing we could have done to stop this from happening.  it won’t be swept under the rug, the police will investigate, the perpetrators will likely be apprehended, and if they are, they may well spend the rest of their lives in prison.  that’s hardly sweeping anything under the rug.

  5. Alan Miller

    a few people are trying to make hay out of these occurrences to try and get the night club scene cut back because they live in the vicinity.

    That’s what I’m doing.  Because there really is hay growing downtown, and it’s being fermented and served to idiots.  Without hay seed and water, I couldn’t make hay.

  6. Tia Will

    BP

    What do you have in mind?  What action could we possibly take to curtail college students from drinking?”

    First I think it is important to recognize that there is no single action that will “curtail drinking amongst college students”. It will take many steps over a long time. Secondly, my goal is not to curtail drinking. My goal is to curtail excessive or binge drinking.

    We have a model for how a deeply entrenched, dangerous social behavior not only can but has been changed through a series of different approaches on the personal, social, businesses and governmental level. This all happened in our own society in our lifetimes, so there is no ability to hedge or to say that it cannot happen here, because it already has. I am referring ,of course ,to cigarette smoking. As a society we have taken smoking cigarettes from a social norm, to a habit that  many fewer people adopt in the first place and that those who do start, almost universally want to stop.

    There are many parallels between cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking. They are both social activities. Both have been justified by users and those who profit from the use as means of relaxation. Both are addictive. And in cases where addiction does occur it is usually with those who have started prior to age 17.

    What I believe eventually shifted us away from the  acceptance of cigarette smoking was  two fold. 1.A change in societal attitude from acceptance to disgust with the behavior. 2. The acceptance of the medical facts that smoking is a behavior that is medically extremely dangerous with no redeeming individual or social factors. These were facts that the cigarette manufacturers fought long and hard to deny, obscure, cast doubt on for the sake of their profits ( by their own ultimate admissions) but which in the end were undeniable. Today we are facing much the same situation with binge drinking and intoxication.

    So. I would recommend the following :

    1. Admit that binge drinking is both a medical and social problem in our society. The consequences are accidental injury, accidents related to DUI, (thus a threat to the public, not just the participant), interpersonal violence, irresponsible sexual activity leading to STDs, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome, and in those who continue beyond their 20’s alcoholism with chronic liver disease up to and including the need for liver transplantation.

    2. Stop minimizing irresponsible use of alcohol ( to the point of intoxication) as “having fun” and admit that it is a dangerous ( not immoral) activity.

    3. Stop framing this as an all or none. Most of us who argue against binge and other forms of irresponsible drinking are not promoting a ban on the sale of alcohol ( I drink wine and an occasional mixed drink so this is not a moral issue for me). I promote responsible use, not prohibition of alcohol.

    4. Stop sanctioning excessive profits of businesses from allowing the continued serving of alcohol to those who are inebriated ( we have the objective means to do this, just not the will). I am talking to the police about stricter enforcement with no winking at businesses that “didn’t realize how many drinks she/he had had”.  Stop promoting the “girls gone wild” ( and its male equivalent) as a socially desirable activity. I am talking to you, business community relying on alcohol sales for profit.

    5. Work together as a community to prevent the under 17 crowd from starting binge drinking in the first place. The youngest ” I don’t remember because I blacked out” case that I have seen was in a 14 year old. So while this individual did not acquire her alcohol at a “nightclub”, certainly the idea that drinking to the point of intoxication is a “fun” and “socially sanctioned” activity is starting quite early in our community as was pointed out at the recent forum .I feel that greater recognition of the problem leading to more collaborative steps to stem under age use and binge drinking in general rather than the current minimization and denial first that there is a problem, then that the problem is a large enough one to bother with, and finally that ultimate denial that there is anything that we can do about it would be a huge first step in the right direction.

    1. Truegreen

      Have you been to Bistro on a Thursday after 10 p.m?  Talk about people binge drinking.  Do they have to have specials on pitchers of alcohol to get people in the door?

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