Students concerned over lack of safety alerts after off-campus armed robbery

| News Editor

Some students have raised concerns about public safety communications after an armed robbery occurred on the Centennial Walkway Oct. 31 around 12:35 a.m., and only certain off-campus residents were notified due to a technical issue.

According to the report from the Washington University Police Department, a student was walking alone when she saw three subjects standing between the Walkway and Kingsbury Boulevard, an area on the north side of Danforth Campus. One of the subjects approached her, displayed a gun and pushed her to the ground. The student yelled for help, and the subject kicked her and took her cellphone, attempting to take her backpack. She refused to release it, and all three subjects fled, last seen running west along Kingsbury Boulevard. Minor injuries were reported, and a combination of four police officers, from WUPD and University City Police, were on the scene within two minutes of the initial 911 call.

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 3.08.28 PMJosh Zucker |Student Life

At 8:14 a.m., later the same day, WUPD sent an email to certain students living off campus near the scene of the crime, detailing the event and warning these residents to take precautions. However, this caused distress among other off-campus students, as only some residents received the email.

Junior Annie Butler lives in the Greenway Apartments, which is located on Washington Avenue, only one street away from Kingsbury. Despite her proximity, she did not receive any email from WUPD or the University.

“So we live…separated by one apartment building from where [the robbery] happened. It’s the next street over, and it’s right off campus…and I heard about it because one of my suitemates sent me a screenshot of that [email that] someone who lives in the Kingsbury apartments got,” Butler said. “I don’t know who the email was sent to, but we all had to find out secondhand what happened.”

Butler then posted that screenshot online in the Greenway Apartments Facebook group and found that, while multiple residents said that they also did not receive an email, two people did.

WUPD Chief of Police Mark Glenn confirmed that typically a security alert would be sent out to all Washington University students living in University City; however, there was an issue with the list of off-campus residents which resulted in only certain students receiving the email.

“Generally with off-campus incidents, if it’s specific to that area…we’d send it to everyone living in University City, north and south,” Glenn said. “We’re getting the same feedback that there are people who did not get that, so we have been working today [Wednesday} to make sure that the list that provided to the police department is updated through a couple different sources.”

Glenn also emphasized that WUPD is in the process of trying to fix the error and asks off-campus students who did not receive the email to report it.

“The one thing I want to tell people is that if you did not receive that alert, I would like to hear from you. I’ve had some students email me, and we’re gathering names, and we’re trying to piece together exactly what happened and to get that fixed right away. That is a priority for us,” Glenn said.

WUPD suggests using the Campus2Home shuttle that can drop students off at their building, walking in groups, staying on well-lit paths and using the SafeTrek app. However, these precautions cannot always prevent a crime from occurring.

“You can do everything right, do all of these recommendations, and you can still find yourself in a situation where you’re confronted by someone,” Glenn said. “For people who see suspicious things—see something that isn’t right—we encourage them to call the police.”

Butler said that her safety concerns extend beyond communication after an incident, and that she believes stronger safety precautions should be taken.

“It’s part of a larger issue of safety around there,” Butler said. “They should have notified us, but also there are just not enough blue lights around there, and there should be cops there more often than there are.”