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Robbery shakes John Carroll community

September 12th, 2013

Last Wednesday, Sept. 4, the John Carroll University community received a disturbing email detailing a robbery that happened close to campus.

A JCU student was robbed at gunpoint on the corner of South Belvoir Boulevard and Silsby Road  while walking home Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning.

Needless to say, the crime raised many questions about the safety of campus and the surrounding neighborhood, causing many students to re-evaluate their awareness while walking around off campus.

The Carroll News followed up on the crime and, while it is still under investigation by the University Heights Police Department, JCU Campus Safety Services provided insight into the crime.

Major crimes, such as robbery at gunpoint, are not common occurrences in and around JCU’s campus, with the last incident happening almost five years ago. Brian Hurd, the assistant director of CSS, explained that the lack of serious crimes, such as armed robbery, suggest that the incident was a “rare occurrence for our area.”

“There is no indication that this is an ongoing issue, more likely some people driving around looking for an opportunity to commit a robbery,” Hurd said. “There is always a chance that they could return to the area, which is why we put out the alert.”

Hurd also explained that the crime put CSS on alert, resulting in action by CSS.

“CSS is maintaining a visible patrol on the perimeter of campus. We do not have patrol jurisdiction where this crime happened, but hope that a visible presence in the immediate campus area will act as a deterrent,” said Hurd.

The area where the crime took place falls under the jurisdiction of UHPD, but CSS hopes that their visual presence around campus will act as a deterrent for any other crimes.

When crimes such as this happen so close to where people work and go to school, uneasiness is bound to result, and the JCU community reacted to the incident with shock and surprise.

Maggie Hutchison, a senior who lives off campus, expressed her concern.

“I was surprised when I saw the alert. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen too often around JCU,” she said.

Hutchison said that the incident will not have much of an impact on her feeling safe walking home.

“I’m not changing my plans of walking anywhere, but I won’t hopefully be walking on Warrensville at two in the morning by myself,” she said.

Hurd said that the best way for students to react to the incident is to have heightened awareness while walking and to actively seek safer ways to travel around campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods.

“If you must walk after dark, try to walk with others, stay on well-traveled and well-lighted sidewalks. Walk with confidence, paying attention to your surroundings,” said Hurd.

Hurd also explained the importance of trusting your gut while traveling home and reacting to those feelings in a rational way.

“If something doesn’t feel right, react to that feeling and get yourself away from the situation however you can.  This might mean changing your direction of travel, seeking safe shelter in a public place or even a nearby house, calling for police or any combination of these. Be aware, and act on that awareness.”

Aaron Okuley, a junior who resides off campus said he, too was shocked by the incident.

“Security is something I guess I have taken for granted over the past couple of years at JCU because it has not been an issue, and it was shocking to see because I was walking home from my campus job right at the same time as this incident,” said Okuley.

Hurd encouraged students to prepare themselves for an incident similar to the robbery by having the number for CSS (216-397-1234) in their phones and being prepared to call 911 or UHPD (216-932-1800) in case of suspicious activity or a crime.

Any immediate threats will be made known to students, faculty and staff using the JCU alert system. The security alert emails are sent when incidents happen that are not time sensitive or causing an immediate threat.

One of the biggest questions being asked is what to do if faced with a situation such as a robbery, and Hurd explained that the student who was robbed reacted exactly how they were supposed to.

“Stay as calm as possible and cooperate. If confronted like this, try to take a deep breath to calm and center yourself; concentrate on listening to exactly what the person tells you to do.  Do no more or no less; if he asks for your phone, don’t also give him your wallet. Try to note characteristics of person(s) involved, vehicle, etc. Having these things to focus on, rather than how scared you are, may keep you from panicking and not acting in a safe manner for the circumstance.”