GAINESVILLE, Fla. - A female University of Florida student was reportedly raped by several men after she got into a car that she thought was an Uber Thursday night, the Gainesville Police Department said.
Police said the student was in Midtown, across the street from the UF campus, when she got into the purported Uber. But police said instead of taking her to her destination, the driver dropped her off on the side of U.S. 441, north of town.
Police said another vehicle pulled up moments later and other men she didn't know took her to an undetermined area and raped her.
Gainesville detectives are working with other area law enforcement agencies to determine a timeline and identify potential suspects.
Patrols will be increased in the Midtown area while the incident is under investigation.
"I’ve seen and read stories about where girls have been touched inappropriately and they’ve had to flee from their cars. And it just seems so scary, and I would not want to be put in that kind of situation," UF student Sarah Morton told News4Jax on Friday. "You can’t just rely on them telling you, 'Hey, I’m an Uber driver,' because anyone can say that.”
Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to contact Gainesville police at 352-393-7570 or call Crime Stoppers at 352-372-STOP.
Police reminded people that choose to use ride-hailing services to make sure that the vehicle you are getting into is the one you are expecting. If you have ordered a car, make sure the make and model of the vehicle that stops for you matches the one sent by the service.
Another tip is to have the driver tell you your name before you get in, instead of telling them your name first. Uber drivers also have decals on their cars that show they're legitimate.
Uber driver Juan Rodriguez said the company requires a strict screening process.
"They do background checks. They make sure it is the same make and model. They go through a thorough process," he said. "Like with me, it took like a week to get everything cleared to make sure you’re insured, to make sure the vehicle is insured, to make sure it is your car.”
Before getting into an Uber, Leigh Russell said she always double checks who’s picking her up before they arrive.
“I actually pay attention to the ratings, too. If it’s kind of an iffy rating, where they’ve only had a couple rides, you know, sometimes I don’t hesitate to cancel that trip and call another one," Russell said.
She said she'll keep using the app, but will also be more mindful of who is picking her up.
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