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The Blue & Gray Press | December 14, 2017

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Strong-armed robbery makes students think about their safety

Strong-armed robbery makes students think about their safety

By HANNAH GALEONE

Senior Writer

On the evening of Sept. 14 a UMW commuter student was a victim of a strong-armed robbery at the Thornton Street Pizza Hut.

The suspect allegedly used threatening body language and brute force to make his way into a UMW commuter student’s car. The male assailant, dressed in red and dark colored clothing, stood in front of the student’s vehicle before forcibly entering the passenger side door of the car.

Upon entering, he demanded that the male UMW student drive him to the Fredericksburg train station on Lafayette Boulevard. Once there, the suspect exited the student’s vehicle on Palmer Street after taking a small sum of cash from the UMW student.

The suspect of the robbery was arrested by UMW Police and was taken into custody shortly after officers were called to the scene. The UMW Police Department continues to work on the case and strives to make sure all UMW community members are safe and protected at all times.

“When a call comes in like this, the best thing to do is have a plan,” said UMW police Sgt. Charles Wheeler. “Your response time is really important.”

The University Police Department is constantly working to keep the UMW community safe from any dangers or hazards.The UMW PD along with the Virginia State Police, aim to maintain safety on both the Fredericksburg and Stafford campuses.

In the event that something like a strong-armed robbery happens on or around campus, the UMW Police have protocols that they follow in order to ensure the safety of all those involved and to protect the UMW community from future events such as this.

After an emergency of this sort, the UMW Police Department works to ensure the suspect is unable to move far from the scene by securing the perimeter of the event.

“When you set up a perimeter, you go beyond the boundaries in which the event occurred so you can keep a suspect contained,” said Sgt. Wheeler.

UMW officer Dillon Brooks was one of the first to arrive at the scene of the robbery.

“I was coming back from an event at Belmont [when I got the call]. For us, a robbery call is an emergency response — lights and sirens go to the scene… The victim had actually pressed the blue light phone and that’s how we got the call,” said officer Brooks.

According to UMW PD protocol, the primary concern of responding officers is the safety and well-being of the students involved. In this scenario, the student was shaken up but not injured. After determining that the student was uninjured, the officers worked to gather an account of what happened.

“Because it’s a larger incident than what we would usually work, we would call the Fredericksburg Police Department [to assist],” said officer Brooks. “I was there for a good hour and half trying to get fingerprints off the car.”

After an incident like this happens, the UMW Police heighten security and surveillance on and around campus to avoid any other events like this from happening.

“I pay a lot more attention to that section now,” said officer Brooks. “It’s almost like it’s a hotspot now and we want to make sure nothing else happens there.”

Upon hearing the news, UMW students shared that they  feel that there are a few issues at hand when it comes to their sense of security on and around campus.

Many  students feel protected when they are on campus, but have concerns when it comes to the surrounding area. This incident in particular  led some students to question the practicality of parking for both residential and commuter UMW members.

“My roommate parks her car in the Pizza Hut parking lot frequently and she’s scared to park there now,” said junior Shawnya Peterson. “She’s trying to find a better way to park [after the robbery].”

An email was sent out to all students the night the robbery occurred, but the email did not include the details of the event. As a result, even though most students have a general idea of what happened, many remain concerned and alert.

“I don’t really know any of the details [of the robbery] but I would be hesitant to go back to that area,” said sophomore, Jacob Spencer.

Students shared that they felt that the nighttime visibility on and around campus should be improved with the addition of more lighting.

“There’s a lack of street lights and good lighting in the community,” said junior, Melissa Pampel.

Many students who live in residence halls located on campus are not satisfied with parking, as many must park far away from the central campus. Some have to park in lots such as the Alvey Parking Deck or the Battleground Athletic Complex and walk a good distance home.

In a situation like a robbery, students who have to park a few blocks from campus and walk to their residence halls shared that they feel there should be an improvement in parking options for safety.

“I wish there was a way to make parking on campus better,” said Peterson. “If [UMW] can’t give us that feeling of security off campus it’s their responsibility to give us safe options on campus.”

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