Tempe police work to curb underage drinking, prevent sexual assault

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tempe police are working to protect Arizona State University students and others against sexual assaults.

It's part of their ongoing back-to-school safety campaign. Crime prevention officers have been on foot patrols in Tempe's downtown, welcoming students and handing out wallet cards with prevention tips. 

They are bolstering their efforts to curb underage drinking and prevent sexual assault. 

Several businesses and apartment complexes have been put on notice because police believe they have been contributing to the problem. 

Two separate incidents happened Tuesday night at the Gateway at Tempe apartment complex where two females were allegedly sexually assaulted at a back-to-school party. In both cases the victims were highly intoxicated, according to police.

One of the victims is an ASU student. The other doesn't attend ASU but was accompanied by acquaintances who are students at the university.

Police said the Gateway apartments near University and McClintock drives hosted the party without sufficient security or ID checks.

The incidents remain under investigation.

In a separate incident near ASU, a bystander thwarted an attempted sexual assault on Aug. 11. Police said the good Samaritan saw the suspect force a woman into an alleyway and stepped in to help. Officers arrested the suspect, Jeremiah Billie, 22, after a short search.

"We need the entire community to help prevent young people from becoming victims, especially with sexual assault, which is among the most heinous of crimes," police Chief Tom Ryff said in a news release. "Unfortunately, a few businesses and apartment complexes continue to facilitate or encourage these parties, compromising the safety of young people -- it's reprehensible and it’s got to stop.

"We will continue to work with the State Liquor Board and other law enforcement partners to hold these property managers and business owners accountable for their behavior and any violations of criminal statutes,” Ryff continued.