University student stabbed in attempted Hyde Park robbery

By Hassan S. Ali

A University of Chicago student who was stabbed during an attempted armed robbery late last quarter is reported to be on track to recovery and back in classes.

“He has returned, resumed classes, and is recovering well,” said Hank Webber, vice president of community and government affairs, who refused to provide further details on the severity of the student’s injuries, specifics of the crime, or the identity of the student who was stabbed on Woodlawn Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets at 3:00 a.m. on November 30.

But according to one of the victim’s friends, who wished to remain anonymous, the early-morning attack was more than a random act of violence. The second-year student had been walking home drunk from a party alone when he reportedly spotted a homeless man in a nearby alley. According to the victim’s friend, the student approached the man and asked if he needed help, at which point the homeless man demanded the student’s wallet. When the student said he did not have a wallet, the man then reportedly stabbed him and fled. The injured student was reported to have walked to the University Police Department several blocks away.

The incident prompted an e-mail from Webber to the University community the next day, in which he described an increase in University Police (UCPD) and Chicago Police Department (CPD) patrols throughout the neighborhood.

“We have assigned additional officers to the area in marked and unmarked cars,” said Webber in the e-mail, adding that these officers would join four extra patrol cars that were dispatched to the area last June.

Webber emphasized that despite the serious nature of the incident, Hyde Park has recently seen some of the lowest crime levels in its history. “We had a record low level of crime for 2006,” Webber said in an interview. “This was an unusual crime, an unusually severe crime, and while we had a very good total year from crime in 2006, it was in a difficult period.”

In his e-mail to the University community, Webber said that the crime “highlights the need to continue enhancing our efforts to increase safety for all of those who study, work, visit, and live in the area,” and that “we realize we must do more to improve the security of our neighborhood.”

The CPD said it would continue to investigate the case and search for a suspect with the help of the UCPD. “The case will stay open, pending any investigative leads,” said Officer Kevin O’Brien of CPD Area 1 Violent Crimes Unit. O’Brien added that the crime appears to be an isolated incident and not part of a larger pattern of armed robberies.

Reflecting Webber’s comments on the safety of the University neighborhood, O’Brien said that crime in the area was “not any more than any other area would handle.”