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Police Urge Caution After Campus Robberies

Cell phones, iPods targeted in incidents


The Boston University Police Department has stepped up patrols and is urging extra caution after three muggings took place around campus last month. The incidents affected two students and one staff member, and in each case a cell phone or iPod was the item targeted.

The first reported incident was on Wednesday, January 14, at 8:50 p.m., near the residence hall at 177 Bay State Rd. The victim, a female student in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she was grabbed from behind and the suspects attempted to take her cell phone from her pocket. The second incident, reported by a BU employee, took place on Thursday, January 30, at 7:18 p.m., near the Metcalf Science Center at 590 Commonwealth Ave. The victim said that she was approached on Blandford Street by the suspects, who threw her against the building and took her iPhone. The third incident occurred on Friday, January 31, at 7:36 p.m.; a student in the College of General Studies was near his residence on Ashford Street when the suspects took his wallet and iPod.

All the victims described the suspects as three black males. A fourth incident, which took place in Kenmore Square, involved a weapon.

In response, the BUPD has increased marked and unmarked cruisers, as well as plainclothes patrols, in the affected areas. Thomas Robbins, the BU police chief, is talking with the Boston and Brookline public safety departments about the possibility of a task force to increase patrols and set up possible stings to apprehend the suspects. Robbins also sent an e-mail to the BU community yesterday encouraging students, faculty, and staff to take steps to protect themselves.

“Although your chances of being the victim of a crime are small, your personal commitment to your own safety is crucial,” Robbins wrote. “Always be aware of your surroundings, whether on or off campus; if possible, plan to walk with friends or with others at night or use the University’s escort security service (617-353-4877) on campus; safeguard your valuables by keeping them out of sight; and report suspicious persons and activity on or near the campus, immediately, to the Boston University Police Department by calling 617-353-2121.”

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.


17 Comments on Police Urge Caution After Campus Robberies

  • Anonymous on 02.03.2009 at 6:56 am

    Adequate self defense is a constitutional right

    BU should modify its policies to allow the use of pepper spray on campus. By BU creating a situation that makes female students and employees potential victims BU is in fact denying women their natural right to defend themselves. How a major university can have such a stupid policy is beyond me. The university should also allow all members of the academic community who have a valid Massachusetts license to carry firearm to carry their firearms on campus. These two policy changes would do more to discourage criminals from victimizing BU students, faculty, and staff than will sending them an email letting them know the bad guys are around.

  • HumanProject on 02.03.2009 at 9:15 am

    Interesting sociological development

    In prior decades, it might not have been worthwhile for thieves to try to rob college students because students didn’t carry a lot of cash or wear expensive watches.

    But now almost every college student (or employee) walks around wearing an item that has high resale value.

    Could I warn thieves by not wasting their effort on me by wearing a sign saying, “My cellphone was new in 2000” (which in fact is what I use because I’m not part of the young generation and don’t use a cell phone much) — hm, so I do you think the thieves perform age and SES profiling when they pick a victim?

    The sad thing is that the robbers were black, and so these incidents could lead to more uneasiness about black males, especially in pairs and threes, on campus.

  • HumanProject on 02.03.2009 at 9:51 am

    new info about robberies

    Just reading through yesterday’s email, I read a letter from CHIEF OF POLICE, THOMAS G. ROBBINS. In that letter he reported something not in the BU Today story:

    Some of the victims were Boston University students and all of them were reportedly talking on cell phones just prior to being robbed.

    So this is pertinent to my prior comment (may be below in the comment queue): the thieves aren’t just targeting random students in the hope that they are carrying an item of high resell value, they obtain visual evidence of the item.

    We could thus think of the thefts as a tax on the wealthy — if we can’t as a collective group of citizens marshall the political will to redistribute wealth to achieve less income inequality, then members of the underclass will try to do it themselves.

    Or put another way: cell phone thefts are one of the prices our society pays for allowing vast income inequities.

  • Anonymous on 02.03.2009 at 10:29 am

    Re: Adequate self defense is a constitutional right

    While BU prioritizes security measures on campus for the safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors, it is inevitable for crimes to occur, so it essential that we as individuals concern ourselves with our own safety measures as well.
    While I’m not familiar with the BU pepper spray policy, I really don’t see why that would be an issue considering the fact it would be helpful in a situation where one’s personal safety is concerned.
    However, I wouldn’t be so inclined about the possibility of firearms being carried on campus, even if the carrier holds a license, mainly because it provides an opportunity for some potential crime to occur.
    Let’s say if that policy was made effective, and somehow the firearms got into the wrong hands, it could create a chaotic situation in which several incidents could occur, not of which would be pleasant I would assume.
    I hope that people reading this article realize that the victims were targeted for their items, basically a robbery case, and that could have been prevented with the victims being more vigilant or aware of their surroundings, not that I’m saying they weren’t. It’s unfortunate, but thank God no one was harmed.
    The main point of this article is that while the BUPD is doing their job, and doing it well, we should also concern ourselves with our own personal safety. They are there to help us, but we must also help ourselves, and hopefully this article will prod more people to be aware of their safety at all times.

  • Anonymous on 02.03.2009 at 10:38 am

    Take it down a notch!

    To the above: Yikes! Pepper spray maybe, but allowing guns on campus would make this woman feel a lot less safe. You cannot undo an accidental gun shot wound. If you are that concerned, might I recommend some self defense classes? Jujitsu rocks.

  • Anonymous on 02.03.2009 at 10:46 am

    It's not just BU its the law

    It’s not just BU that won’t allow pepper spray on campus, it is a law of the Commonwealth of MA that pepper spray can only be possessed if you have a permit to carry. Check the law before you blame BU. And thinking that allow students to carry weapons will decrease crime is very unsmart

  • Anonymous on 02.03.2009 at 10:53 am

    An open campus like BU should have police checkpoints along Commonwealth, if not police.. at least security.

    Not necessarily to stop vehicles because it is a public road, but to watch the sidewalk, etc. I see a BU cruiser maybe once every two days, and I walk down Comm Ave every day.

    Do they have somewhere else to be? No.

  • Joao on 02.03.2009 at 12:10 pm

    Firearms? Not a solution!

    Although I might agree with the prospect of allowing students to carry pepper spray on campus, the idea of firearms on the BU grounds is just appalling.
    The learning environment we all want in a top university like BU can’t be achieved with an aura of fear, either by the sporadic mugging or the prospect of having firearms within BU.
    As such, we can’t undermine the efforts of everyone connected to BU towards their goal by exposing them to unnecessary risks related to firearms on campus, which could lead to dramatic events. Let’s not forget Virginia Tech.
    Therefore, we just have to support the police in their work and follow their advices: not exposing ourselves as possible victims; call them immediately if we see something suspicious.

  • Anonymous on 02.03.2009 at 12:17 pm

    All this, AND the armed robbery at 90 Gardner Street a few weeks ago. I realize those suspects were apprehended, but nonetheless it’s an incident worth noting.

  • Anonymous on 02.03.2009 at 1:51 pm

    ehh firearms might be a little much. but the pepper spray should be allowed

  • Christopher on 02.03.2009 at 2:04 pm

    Yes I agree wholeheartedly

    I agree completely with the comment before me. Much has been said about criminal rights but not much attention has been given to victim rights. I don’t see why the university should exercise restraint in dealing with criminals when, quite clearly, restraint is not on the minds of these criminals.

  • Common Sense on 02.03.2009 at 3:01 pm

    Adequate safety is a constitutional right

    Yes, allowing guns on campus would definitely make it a safer place. I will feel much safer carrying my iPod around if I know that any stranger near me could be carrying a gun to protect me. How a major university can have such a stupid policy is beyond me.

  • Anonymous on 02.04.2009 at 6:28 am

    People who have concealed carry permits can bring their guns with them everywhere they go in society except on BU campus and they are not causing crimes. Concealed carry permit holders all among the most law abiding citizens we have. This is a faulted argument that is repeated without any knowledge of reality. Face the facts bad guys do not obey the law that’s why they are bad guys. If just one single student at Virginia Tech had been able to shoot back many others might have been saved. And do not forget the most recent situation at VT involved not a gun but a knife!! Why should your right to self defense magically stop when you step on BU campus?

  • Anonymous on 02.04.2009 at 7:21 am

    In reading these comments I see how naive some people are. Some call for more police but fail to recognize that police cannot be everywhere. Some claim that the BU community which is composed of some of the best and brightest minds in the country cannot be trusted with guns. At the end of the day you are responsible for yourself. If you do not like the idea of a gun then carry a pepper spray but do not try to make a victim out of someone else by imposing restrictions on their ability to defend themselves with a firearm against a group of three men or an armed perpetrator. Ultimately the current regulation is pointless and in a post Heller world will open BU up to future law suits as the first person with a valid Mass CCW permit who is attacked while disarmed due to the policy will have grounds to sue.

  • Anonymous on 02.04.2009 at 7:05 pm


    Alright. Some of you apparently don’t understand Massachusetts law.

    Pepper spray: If you are a resident of Massachusetts and are 15+ years of age, you need to acquire an FID. If you have an FID, you may carry pepper spray. If you are from outside of Massachusetts (another state or another country), you are not eligible for an FID and so must acquire a Class B firearms license. You must be 21 years old to have such a license.

    Also, it’s rather difficult to get a Class A license, the only type in Massachusetts that allows you to carry a firearm, as the CITY is uncomfortable with people carrying.

    You must be 21+, so that means usually only juniors, seniors, and staff. Then you must take a required course on firearm safety, interview with someone in the police department, and then take a proficiency test at… Moon Island?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m not sure too many BU students have a license to carry… (and if they did, would you really want someone carrying a loaded pistol in your classroom? The chances of a problem occurring because of one are very low, but even to someone who has seen them before it is still somewhat unnerving when it is not under your control).

  • Anonymous on 02.04.2009 at 11:34 pm

    I would like to reply to one comment I read above: “cell phone thefts are one of the prices our society pays for allowing vast income inequities”
    Invariabily in a democracy and free market society there are income inequities (maybe rightfully so!! some people are just more capable and hard working than others so therefore deserve higher income!)- if you want everyone to be equal go to a communist country. I lived in one-it’s not pleasant- so, go there, do not try to transform US into a communist country!! And justifying theft, as a way of taxation…I totally diasgree!!!

  • Boston Dan on 02.18.2009 at 1:42 am

    re: new info about robberies

    Thanks Professor. I for one figured out that out from the article above in which it says “a female student in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she was grabbed from behind and the suspects attempted to take her cell phone from her pocket.”

    People talking on phones and listening to i-pods are doing a disservice to themselves. Boston is a real city,. Pay attention!

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