Patrols tripled in Laurel Bay after alleged assault; Marine detained

Military police and civilian security officers have stepped up patrols inside the Laurel Bay military housing complex after a woman was sexually assaulted there last week, base officials say.

"They've tripled their patrols," said Gunnery Sgt. Chad McMeen, spokesman for Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. "At any given time, there are seven cars (on patrol) inside Laurel Bay. That's a lot of manpower for a place that has 1,400 homes."

A woman reported being raped early Feb. 2 inside a home at Laurel Bay, according to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

A Marine lance corporal attached to the air station was identified by investigators as a person of interest less than two hours after the attack and is being detained at the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston. The Marine, whose identity has not been disclosed, has yet to be charged, though McMeen said that could happen by week's end.

Base officials have declined to discuss the details of the attack, though McMeen said Wednesday the victim did not know the attacker. NCIS also declined to disclose any information about the victim, including whether she was a Marine or the wife of a Marine.

Even though Laurel Bay sits behind gates guarded by military police officers, residents still need to protect themselves, McMeen said.

"When it comes down to it, if a person wants to commit a crime badly enough, they're going to do it, so don't do anything to make yourself more vulnerable," McMeen said. "That's not just because of (the attack). In today's society, you have to use common sense and always protect yourself and take those personal precautions to keep yourself safe."

Dixie Lanier, spokeswoman for Atlantic Marine Corps Communities, the corporation that owns and operates Laurel Bay, said base housing is still safe and deferred all other questions to the air station's public affairs office.

"We feel confident that the attack is an isolated incident, and all appropriate measures are in place for our residents at Laurel Bay to feel comfortable in their homes," Lanier said in an e-mail.