Police urge students to be aware of threat of robbery

The total number of robberies in Champaign decreased from 14 in 2010 to eight in 2012, but University of Illinois Police officers encourage students to be vigilant in coming weeks, as there is generally a jump in robberies prior to and during winter break. 

Deputy Chief of UIPD Skip Frost said there is no steady trend in the numbers, and the threat of robbery is always there.

Algis Marcinkevicius, sophomore in LAS, saw this firsthand after returning from Thanksgiving break.

Although he locked his apartment’s doors when he left campus, the front door was unlocked when he returned. He soon realized his apartment had been robbed.

“There’s light timers that alternate being on and off in your house to make it seem like you’re living there, so I’m definitely getting one of those and installing one … and turning them on during breaks,” Marcinkevicius said. 

A 19-year-old male was allegedly robbed by two unknown suspects on Nov. 21 at around 6:30 p.m. at 510 E. Stoughton St., according to a Champaign Police Department report.

The victim was approached by the two men upon arriving at his apartment. One suspect allegedly pointed a gun at him and robbed him of several electronic items. The suspects then forced the victim to open his apartment door, at which point they stole a set of headphones before escaping in an unknown direction. 

Frost described the crime as “extremely disturbing” for University police officers. 

“Whether we’ve had 10 (robberies) in the last week or we don’t have one for the next six months, that shouldn’t stop people from being extremely alert and aware of their surroundings,” Frost said. “If you see something that doesn’t look right, contact the police as quickly as possible.”

One offender is described as a dark-skinned black male in his early 20s who is approximately six feet tall with an average build. He was last seen wearing black clothing with a black bandana over his face.

The second offender is described as a light-skinned black male in his teens who is approximately 5’6” to 5’8” with an average build. He was also wearing black clothing and had a gray bandana covering his face.

“It’s got nothing to do with their height, their weight, the color of their skin, with how they’re dressed,” Frost said. “It’s got everything to do with what their behavior is.”

Frost defines a suspicious person as someone who is acting abnormal, such as standing in the shadows for an extended period of time and showing an interest in everyone who passes. 

Other examples include someone who walks up and down the street but doesn’t go anywhere, and someone who stands at the same location and asks everyone who passes a general question, such as the time. By doing this, suspects are “sizing up the next victim,” Frost said.

Bryant Irwin, a Champaign resident, described his neighborhood as “relatively quiet,” but he had his home robbed during winter break in 2010 while he was out of town. 

Irwin’s roommate heard the burglar and went downstairs before allegedly being threatened by the suspect. By the time police arrived, the suspect was gone and had taken a 12-pack of Rolling Rock and an Xbox 360, Irwin said. The suspect was caught and arrested the same night. 

“I wish I had left the … blinds closed and kept the door locked,” Irwin said. “My big-screen TV was visible from the road, and combined with an unlocked door, it was an easy target.”

Irwin advises everyone to keep high-value electronics out of sight from the outside and to keep doors locked even when inside.  

“Most thefts are a crime of opportunity, so limit the opportunity and you will make yourself less of a target,” he said. 

Anyone with information regarding a crime is urged to contact the Champaign Police Department at (217) 351-4545. Information can also be texted to 274637 with the keyword “CCTIP.”

To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at (217) 373-8477 or 373tips.com. Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest. 

“People are so involved with their iPhones, with their iPads, with their earphones, everybody’s just kind of tuned out,” Frost said. “That’s not a safe way to go through life.”

Brittney can be reached at [email protected]