WUPD responds to recent carjacking and armed robbery
Washington University Chief of Police Mark Glenn announced two updated safety initiatives in response to a recent spike in crime near campus in an email Monday.
Following a carjacking incident between Rosedale and Pershing avenues in which a Washington University student was held at gunpoint and an armed robbery on Washington Avenue, the Wash ington University Police Department will have six police officers take additional nightly rounds and restart the “Sidewalk SafeTalk” program.
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Lori White also emailed students’ parents and families.
“No one was physically hurt in either incident but the crimes have understandably led to some alarm in our university community,” White wrote. “I want to assure you that keeping our students safe is our most important priority.”
WUPD added six police officers on patrol from 4:00 p.m. to midnight in residential areas near the Danforth Campus. There will be two additional officers in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood and two in the neighborhoods north and south of Delmar Boulevard.
“I talked to our staff, and we opened it up to volunteers; so, officers are volunteering their off time,” Glenn said. “We want them to be able to monitor the area and look for anything suspicious as well as help out the community members, not just our students but everyone who lives in that area or guests in that area.”
The second initiative WUPD is implementing is their “Sidewalk SafeTalks,” during which officers will be available in neighborhoods near campus for community members to meet with them, discuss safety concerns and learn valuable safety information.
According to Glenn, WUPD has offered the “Sidewalk SafeTalks” in the past, and Glenn believes that offering personal one-on-one time with the officers has proven effective.
“We just found it’s an invaluable tool to get those safety messages across when we can catch people in their neighborhoods where they live,” Glenn said. “It’s just a must more effective way to have those conversations.”
The recent carjacking incident took place around 7:50 p.m. on Sunday when a student was parking her vehicle in the 6100 lot on Waterman Avenue. The two suspects in the case were both described as black males in their early 20s, 6 feet to 6 feet 2 inches tall, the first with dark clothing, eyeglasses and a short haircut and the other wearing a black-and-grey-striped shirt.
According to Glenn, the St. Louis City Police detectives are currently working on the case. University City Police, meanwhile, have made progress on the Aug. 31 case involving the armed robbery, but neither cases have made an arrest.
One concern that students have expressed is the effectiveness of the WUPD security alert system. On Sunday night, WUPD sent a security memo to students living in the area near Pershing and Waterman Avenue where the carjacking incident occurred. The memo was sent at 11:00 p.m., three hours after the incident.
Junior Emma Kawasaki, a student who lives in the area and parks in lot 6100 where the carjacking occurred, was concerned about the delayed nature of the alert.
“I was shocked to hear there was a gunman around the corner from my apartment,” Kawasaki said. “Our friend had just walked into the apartment when we found out; so, it was pretty terrifying to hear that we were so unaware of how close to the danger we could have been in. I think what’s most frustrating is that [WUPD patrols] will stop after a month of no activity. Now, we make it a point to always walk each other from the car to the door and carry a bottle of pepper spray.”
According to Glenn, WUPD didn’t send out an immediate email because it wasn’t an ongoing situation, and they needed to get accurate information from the St. Louis City Police beforehand.
“We knew that it wasn’t an ongoing situation; it occurred, it was very tense, very brief and it was done,” Glenn said. “We want to make sure that we get all the details as accurate as possible to include descriptions. We have to wait for, in that case, St. Louis City Police to complete their investigation before we can start asking the questions that we need to and compile the information that we get.”
Glenn also attached safety tips to the email, including not walking home alone, reporting suspicious behavior to WUPD (or 911 for students off-campus), using the Campus2Home shuttle and downloading the Noonlight app. Noonlight—formerly known as SafeTrek—is a mobile personal safety app that individuals can discreetly use when they feel unsafe, instantly connecting them to the police at the press of a button.
Glenn stressed the importance of awareness when walking home at night.
“If there’s one thing that we’d like to stress with our community [it] is to trust your instincts and pay attention to your surroundings,” Glenn said. “I just think that sometimes we all get—and I am as guilty of this as anyone else—so wrapped up in what’s going on and what you have to do tomorrow that it’s easy to get distracted. We just want people to…know what’s going on.”