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UC Santa Cruz students, Santa Cruz residents and members of the media fill an auditorium on the UCSC campus Wednesday night to hear Santa Cruz police officers and UCSC officials address the recent wave of crime in Santa Cruz. (Matthew Hintz/Sentinel).

SANTA CRUZ -- UC Santa Cruz freshman Manual Burciaga said he never imagined the small beach town he chose for college could rival his hometown of Los Angeles for crime.

Burciaga, alarmed by the recent spate in violence in Santa Cruz and on the UCSC campus, was one of about 50 students and faculty who attended a meeting Wednesday with police and university officials to address the anxiety and distress many in the community have felt after the crimes.

"I never expected this stuff would happen in Santa Cruz," Burciaga said. "I want to be safe. It's scary at night walking by yourself."

The public safety meeting was held in a large lecture hall and led by Sarah Latham, vice chancellor of business and administrative services, UCSC Police Chief Nader Oweis and Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark.

Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel and Deputy Chief Rick Martinez also attended the meeting.

"The events of the last couple of weeks have been troubling to say the least," Latham said. "This is a very poor reminder that crime happens everywhere. We are not in a bubble in this city on a hill."

Several students say they are especially upset about the rape of a 21-year-old woman who was walking on a wooded path between the Upper Quarry amphitheater and the Classroom Unit buildings Sunday around 12:30 p.m.

Police are also investigating the robbery and attempted homicide of a UCSC student who was sitting at a bus stop near West Cliff Drive on Feb. 11 and a Feb. 13 armed robbery at a local grocery store.

No arrests have been made in any of the incidents.

Oweis announced a $5,000 award from UCSC for tips that lead to the arrest of the rape suspect. He also said campus police are increasing patrols and beginning a night escort service.

Oweis said he's been asked if students can carry pepper spray, stun guns or batons. Only pepper spray is legal on campus, he said.

Clark said his department has authorized overtime for officers to step up patrols and investigate the recent crimes.

"We are so motivated to solve these crimes," Clark said. "We are working feverishly and tirelessly. We are using every available resource to solve these crimes."

UCSC student Quinsha Wheeler, 18, said she's changed her routine since the rape.

"I'm keeping more to myself and staying at home more," Wheeler said. "Because if you're not safe at school, where are you safe?"

After the meeting with police, several hundred students gathered for a rally in Quarry Plaza to talk and comfort each other.

Rally organizer Sarah Edelstein, 20, said Sunday's rape on campus during the day has changed the way she views her personal safety.

"This happened at the heart of our campus near the bookstore. All the tours go through there," Edelstein said. "Symbolically, it's a huge blow. I'm usually fearless on campus, but this brings a whole new level of awareness."

Follow Sentinel reporter Shanna McCord on Twitter at Twitter.com/scnewsmom