Since two attempted robberies and aggravated batteries have occurred at the university within the last month, officers in the Department of Public Safety are encouraging students to be safe when walking on campus.
Safety alerts were posted on the Department of Public Safety’s website Nov. 16 and Dec. 5 after attempted strong-arm robberies — where no weapons were used — and aggravated battery incidents were reported Nov. 13 and Dec. 3.
Both incidents were reported near the west side of the Recreation Center. Although the incidents remain under investigation, police are warning students to remain cautious of walking in dark areas at night.
Todd Sigler, director of the Department of Public Safety, said the department has no indication the incidents were related, but police are considering comparisons in the investigations.
Sigler said the department has increased patrol in the area, and as a result, a recent incident was avoided.
“Last weekend there was a fight that was going to take place, but because our officers were there it was diffused,” he said.
The victims of both cases reported the suspects attempted to take items from their pockets. Russell Thomas, a police officer with the DPS, said students should be cautious in trying to retain their belongings in an attempted robbery.
“If it appears they have a weapon, I don’t know that it’s a good idea to fight those kinds of people,” he said.
In both occurrences, there were two victims who were approached by more than one suspect, according to the DPS website. The report states during the Dec. 3 incident three men were reported to have attacked two victims who were walking along the west side of the Recreation Center at around 11:45 p.m. The suspects battered the two victims and attempted to “rifle through their pockets in a search for valuables,” according to the report. No items were tak en.
During the Nov. 13 incident, the two victims reported to police two students approached them from behind and punched them several times on their backs.
“The suspects then attempted to grab the victims’ wallets from their back pockets, but were unsuccessful,” the report stated. The victims escaped without injuries, according to the report.
The two suspects were seen in a group of six people before the attack, which happened at 1:30 a.m., according to the DPS website.
Thomas said the buddy system can be used to avoid becoming a victim of robbery or battery, as well as staying in well-lit areas at night.
“If you get into a dark area there’s always an opportunity for somebody to take advantage of you,” he said.
Thomas said an alternate route to walking along the Recreation Center’s west side, near where both crimes took place, is to take Washington Street.
Reaching safety should be the first concern of a victim in an incident, Thomas said. However, he said if a person is able to see an attacker, details of what they saw or heard can be helpful to police. He said a victim should look for distinctive features such as tattoos, jewelry, haircut, shoes, or even speech in order for police to have a better description of who the suspect may be.
“Every little detail we can get will help us,” he said.
Although how to avoid becoming a victim of a battery or robbery may not be on the mind of a person each time they are out walking alone at night, Thomas said getting into the habit of walking alone can increase a person’s risk of involvement in an incident.
“You may walk on the west side of the (Recreation) Center a hundred times, and one time something might happen,” he said. “How many times have people walked by there and not had a problem? Now we have two incidents.”
Both incidents occurred after the Recreation Center had closed.
“This is an unusual situation where you have more than two victims, and it’s very unusual for somebody to take them on like that,” he said.
If the victims had not been together, but alone, Thomas said he believes the incident could have ended differently.
Rod Sievers, spokesman for the university, said there has not been new information in the investigation of the case. Information regarding the description of the suspects is available on the Department of Public Safety website, www.dps.siu.edu. Sigler said anyone with information regarding the case is encouraged to contact the DPS or Crimestoppers.