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UF students react to campus attacker

Students staying in groups, using safety apps for protection

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Another attack on the University of Florida campus has students and faculty on edge.

According to the UF Police Department, just before 9 p.m. Sunday a female UF student was walking to her car from Library West, when a man tackled her from behind at McCarty Hall between buildings B and C.

She was able to kick him off, and she told police he ran off toward Reintz Union.

Police responded in less than 3 minutes time and shortly after, as many as 60 officers were searching the area.

More than 50,000 students attend UF, so one of the biggest goals for the UFPD and Alachua County Sheriff's Office is getting the word out to everyone that the attacker is out there.

All the students News4Jax spoke with Monday seemed to have a game plan, starting with safety in numbers.

"Basically, we're walking together, carpooling," said Caitlyn Sorinao. "Some of us walk with those flashlight apps on the phone."

"It definitely makes me nervous," Maddie Daugherty said. "I've been just trying to stay in groups at night, more than like one person with me, big groups, and pay attention to my surroundings."

Officers released photos of a person they believe could be connected with the attacks. The problem is, he looks like so many other folks on campus.

"There's a variety of students here, so it's so easy to blend in," Sorinao said.

UFPD said it's important to be aware of who's around you and be on the look out for suspicious activity. A new app called TapShield makes it easy to alert police.

If a student is going for a walk, she can bring along her headphones. If at any point she needs help, she can just yank the headphones out of her phone and an alert will be sent. If the headphones are accidentally pulled out of the phone, the student has 10 seconds to disarm the alarm.

Students also have the option of sending their friends the route they're taking. If a student doesn't arrive on time, her friends using the app are notified. Brian Joseph said he's been using that app.

"If someone's following you, you can tap on your phone and immediately police will come," Joseph said. "I have a lot of close female friends who are walking around campus late at night, coming from the library, so I'm just trying to spread awareness of the app, because I feel like that's the best thing I can do right now."

If you want to download that app, go to the app store for your phone and search TapShield. The app is free and the UFPD is encouraging everyone to use it.