Police tip students on how to stay safe

By Danielle Gaines

One week after a string of robberies hit the campus area, law enforcement officials are encouraging students to maintain safe practices. The first four of five armed robberies on campus occurred early Saturday morning as revelers from Friday night’s bar scene headed home.

“The important thing to realize is that this is on campus,” University Police Lt. Roy Acree said. “It is not happening in town, or somewhere else, it is here.”

University Police Sgt. Brad Shock said there is much similarity in the crimes that should be noted by students.

The first of the robberies took place at Illini Grove just after midnight.

According to a University police report, a couple was robbed at gunpoint by a man in the park. The couple turned over their belongings and the man fled.

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A second suspect was at the scene of each crime, according to a massmail sent by University Police Chief Krystal Fitzpatrick. The male victim’s credit card was later used at a local gas station and subsequent charges were attempted in the Southeast suburbs of Chicago.

Due to the location of the attempted charges, an investigation has not yet determined where the criminals reside, Acree said. The fifth robbery occurred early Wednesday morning and is believed to be connected to Saturday’s incidents.

All of the crimes took place in areas that were poorly lit and intoxicated individuals seemed to be targeted, Shock said.

In the massmail, Fitzpatrick described these incidents as “crimes of opportunity,” where criminals look for those who are easiest to victimize. Shock said all students in Campustown should consider themselves potential victims and take steps to ensure their safety.

University Police are advocating driving or taking public transportation whenever possible at night. When students must walk, they should be sober and in large groups.

“People have a right to walk alone, but I would strongly advise against it,” Acree said.

Officers are also encouraging residents to carry as few valuables as possible.

Carrying your cell phone in a discreet place is also advisable, Acree said.

Shock added that if someone does fall 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.

Acree said the suspects do not seem to have a problem escalating their crimes. In the Illini Grove incident, the suspects demanded more money from the victims after the first amount turned over was deemed inadequate.

“The most important thing is that you give them what they want, whatever you have,” he said. “Don’t try to be a hero.”