February 25, 2005

Series of robberies strikes campus

A spate of five armed robberies or attempted robberies occurring near campus between February 9 and 20 has jeopardized student safety—especially for apartment dwellers living off campus. On February 21, the South East Chicago Commission (SECC) issued a crime pattern, meaning that specific, eyewitness details about the offenders link the five cases.

The robberies and attempted robbery all took place within several blocks of campus: The 1400 block of East 60th Street, the 1300 block of East 54th Street, the 5500 block of South Dorchester Avenue, the 1100 block of East 57th Street, and the 5400 block of South Woodlawn Avenue. Three of the robberies were committed in broad daylight; the earliest was at 2:15 p.m. The latest of the five robberies occurred at 6:40 p.m.

One of the offenders is described as a 30-year-old black male with a medium complexion who stands at 5-foot-10 and weighs about 230 pounds. All of the victims noted his brown or tan coat and blue jeans. The man wielded a silver or chrome semi-automatic handgun, and in one case he implied that he possessed the weapon without actually showing it.

Victims said the other offender was a six-foot, 180-pound black man in his 40s who wore dark clothing. Some victims noticed his wrinkled, sunken-in face.

The language used in the robberies is consistent. According to Robert Richards, the law enforcement coordinator for the South East Chicago Commission, one of the offenders says, "Give me your money or we'll blow your head off" before robbing the victims.

Richards said that police are employing special surveillance methods in an attempt to apprehend the men. He said he could not give specifics on these tactics, however.

The police received an eyewitness lead about one of the robberies, which the 21st District Tactical Unit officers are investigating. "Whether or not it's going to work out or pan out we don't know yet," Richards said.

The victims were all men who were walking alone when robbed, Richards said. Some of them were students, though Richards was not sure of the exact number.

Sergeant Al Bautista, from the Robbery, Burglary, and Theft Unit of Area 1 detectives, said that people walking alone are easy prey to robbers, who have strength in numbers.

The five robberies are not a statistical anomaly, according to Richards or Bautista. In the Hyde Park-South Kenwood area, there were 249 robberies in 2003 and 253 in 2004.