A string of neighborhood street robberies have plagued University students during the past two weeks. Although the University has not issued a safety alert regarding the increased crime, according to Rudy Nimocks, the executive director of the UC Police Department, additional patrol cars have been assigned to the area.
The firsts of the recent spark of incidents occurred on October 6 at 2:40 a.m. near the end of 54th Street by Nichols Park which is just east of Kimbark Avenue. A female second-year in the College was parking her car near her apartment when she noticed a man approaching. As she stepped out of the car, the thought of re-entering her car crossed her mind, but it was too late. The man had already demanded her keys.
The offender, who was described as a Hispanic male, 23-25 years old, 5'9'' and of a slightly heavy build, did not show a weapon but implied he possessed a gun. "The man had not planned on carjacking me," she explained. "It was a sporadic thing."
The victim's 2001 Red Honda Civic has yet to be recovered, and both University and Chicago Police are continuing to investigate.
The student commented that they police were sympathetic to her case, taking her down to the station immediately to view mug shot books, although no match was made. She also acknowledged measures taken by the University in order to make her feel safe again.
"I plan on moving from the area soon. The University and the Dean have offered me three rooms in the housing system," the victim said, adding that students should not walk past 55th Street at night and should make use of the late night van service as much as possible.
Between October 11th and 14th, four other incidents occurred on streets where University students often rent apartments. "We have increased the number of patrols in the vicinity; however, with the distance between incidents, there is more ground to cover," Nimocks said.
In one incident, a female second-year in the College and two male third-years were robbed near 54th Street and Kimbark Avenue last Sunday at 2 a.m. The three students, all of who wish to remain anonymous, called the late night van service upon leaving a party. They were hungry and asked the driver to drop them off at Walgreens.
After leaving Walgreens, the students were walking west on 54th Street when they passed three African-American males heading north on Kimbark. They heard the men talking and suddenly turn around. The offenders, who are described as being between 16 and 20 years old, about five-foot ten and 140 lbs, ran toward them, waving guns and demanding the victims' money.
"I knew there was something suspicious going on when we passed the men, but I didn't want to be the person to bring it up," the female victim said.
The victims were forced to lie facedown on the ground. Two of the smaller offenders held the female and one of the males on the grass while the second male was kept on the concrete sidewalk by the biggest of the offenders. The female victim handed her purse to the offenders, which contained, among other things, a wallet, cell phone, and a pack of cigarettes, and the male victims forfeited their wallets, at which point the offenders fled the scene.
"This was a bungled robbery," one of the male victims said. "It was out of the ordinary. They were not trained or experienced."
The victims described the two guns to the authorities as a palm gun and a gun with a longer barrel. All three students said that the police responded quickly to their call; however, it was too late for anything to be done. "The police were great," the female victim said. "They came as soon as we called."
The other male victim echoed concerns voiced by the first female victim, urging students to not walk around late at night and that if they have to, to use bigger streets with more lighting and car traffic. He added that everyone should take advantage of the late night van service.
"I'd always walked alone at three or four in the morning," he said. "I had never encountered anything before. I know Hyde Park isn't the greatest neighborhood in the world, but I never though it could happen to me."
Similar incidents involving student victims were reported during the last four days at 56th and Dorchester, 53rd and Greenwood, and 50th and Greenwood.
Nimocks advises students to be aware of their surrounds and to walk in the opposite direction or cross the street if they sense anything suspicious.