Armed robberies occur on campus

Ian H. Besler

By Danielle Gaines

Students are being warned to take precautions after a series of armed robberies occurred in the campus area early Saturday morning.

According to a mass e-mail sent to students by University Police Chief Krystal Fitzpatrick, two men committed a total of four armed robberies between midnight and 2:40 a.m.

University Police Sergeant Brad Shock said the department is scheduling extra patrols for the area and alerting officers of the situation.

“We are concentrating on getting the word out so the public can be alert and aware of the situation,” he said.

Three of the crimes occurred in the University District at: Illini Grove, the wooded area south of McKinley Health Center; at Wright and White streets in Champaign; and at Locust and Chalmers streets in Champaign. The fourth occurred just outside the district at the intersection of Busey Avenue and Nevada Street in Urbana.

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On Sunday morning, the News Gazette reported on their Web site that a fifth robbery occurred at the intersection of White and Third streets at 11:32 p.m. Friday. This incident could not be confirmed by police reports or by any department on Sunday afternoon.

Fitzpatrick said these are “crimes of opportunity” in the e-mail, where the criminals look for those who are easiest to victimize. Shock said the men appear to be focusing on the campus area only and, in most cases, on intoxicated individuals.

Two men were involved in each of the robberies. One man approached the victims, brandishing a hand gun, according to the e-mail. Another man was seen standing near the scene of each crime. Shock said in each case one of the men would approach a victim and ask for the time in order to distract them. The man would then pull a gun and demand valuables. In each of the incidents, items were taken, but no one was injured.

The e-mail described the man holding the gun as a black male, approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall and heavyset, wearing black clothing including a black knit cap.

The second suspect is described as a black male, thin and approximately 6 feet and 1 inches tall.

Shock said all students in Campustown should consider themselves potential victims for this type of crime and should take steps to ensure their safety.

He urged students to utilize the bus system and safe rides programs, walk in groups, remain sober and to be aware that they may be part of a set up when approached by any stranger.

The e-mail urged students to call in any tips to Crimestoppers at 217-373-TIPS or the University Police at 217-333-1216. Students are also encouraged to report suspicious activity to 911.

Shock added that if someone does become the victim to this type of crime, they should call 911 immediately.

Often victims wait until they get home or talk to a friend first, but time is of the essence in these situations.

“Calling it in after the fact doesn’t help us,” he said.