Two armed robberies and one attempted robbery have occurred in the past week, one on campus and two others in the off-campus area. Ohio State University Police issued a public safety notice via email Sunday afternoon with information about the robberies.
On campus, a female OSU student was the victim of an armed robbery near Hitchcock Hall, located at 2070 Neil Ave., reported at 2:19 a.m. Sunday. According to the email, the suspect was described as “a black male, (5 feet 8 inches)”, late 30s-early 40s, short hair, wearing a dark, baggy shirt and dark jeans.”
According to the email, the Columbus Division of Police received a report concerning an armed robbery attempt in the area of East 16th Avenue and North High Street with a similar suspect description.
On Thursday, an armed robbery was reported by the Columbus Police at East 16th Avenue and Waldeck Avenue at 12:30 a.m. Three students were involved in the incident.
Ethan Godfrey, a fourth-year in agribusiness and applied economics, was one of the students robbed at 16th and Waldeck.
Godfrey and two friends, a male and a female, were robbed while walking home from the High Street area. He said he thinks the suspects were hiding behind cars before they were approached. He said one man pointed a gun at his friend, and Godfrey said he was “pistol whipped,” then the next thing he knew someone was on top of him.
The suspects pushed the female down, broke his male friend’s nose, and took money, cellphones and credit cards from all of them, Godfrey said.
The public safety notice said, “While there is no direct indication that the crimes are related, they do suggest an ongoing concern for public safety in the University area.”
Columbus Police Sgt. Richard Weiner said the police have not noticed an increase in crime upon the students’ return to campus, but they are aware of the crimes that are occurring.
“Every year when the students come back, you know, it’s a new cycle. We have fresh faces, you know, the freshmen come in and they’re coming from all different parts of the country, from rural areas as well, and they’re not used to the city crime, and the criminals know that as well,” Weiner said. “We have to educate them.”
This year, Weiner’s son is a first-year student at OSU, and Weiner took his son and his son’s friend around to different on- and off-campus areas, telling them to be careful.
“It’s a safe place, you just gotta make sure that you don’t set yourself up to be a victim,” Weiner said.
Godfrey agreed that there are ways to stay safe around campus.
“Walk in groups of five or more, and avoid side shortcuts. Stay on High and Lane as much as you can,” he said. “OSU police need to patrol more, but I understand there is only so much they can do.”
Taylor Stepp, Undergraduate Student Government president, also emphasized the importance of safety on and around campus.
“Safety is a huge concern of mine. We’ve (USG) been focusing all our efforts on on-campus and off-campus safety,” Stepp said.
He added that he is “glad to say the university has been working with USG” on safety issues and he “think(s) you’ll see big safety announcements this year.”
Stepp also touched on the issue of joint jurisdiction between OSU Police and Columbus Police, an agreement that would allow University Police to patrol off-campus neighborhoods.
University Police and Columbus Police have a mutual aid agreement in place, but the agreement does not allow each department to act independently on the others’ territory.
“We’ll see some developments in the next few months with that,” Stepp said.
Additionally, Stepp said he has had conversations with representatives from OSU’s Panhellenic Association to work at getting heightened police security in the area during sorority events, when women might be more likely to be walking alone at night.
Courtney Windhorst, a third-year in international studies and history, said she appreciates being informed about crimes in the on- and off-campus area, although she doesn’t entirely feel safe off-campus at night.
“It’s a little creepy walking around at night,” Windhorst said. “I work at Sloopy’s (Diner), so it’s a little unnerving when I have to work late. I live on 14th (Avenue) so it’s kind of far.”
She added that she thinks the university and Columbus Police are helpful in keeping students safe.
“They can only do so much. They can’t escort every student home late at night. What’s unnerving is one happening outside of Hitchcock on campus,” Windhorst said.
Marina Zahran, a first-year in international studies, said the robbery near Hitchcock Hall makes her uneasy about being on campus at night.
“If outsiders are coming onto this campus that late at night, then that opens the door for questions like, ‘Well, I walk around this campus sometimes at night when I wanna take a walk and talk on the phone with my friend or something. Is that not a good idea? Should I not do that anymore?’ So it does (arouse) some uneasy feelings,” Zahran said.
Dave Isaacs, communications and media relations manager for the Office of Student Life, said in a Sunday email that he did not know anything other than what he read in the notice.
Representatives from OSU Police did not return requests for comment Sunday.
Ally Marotti, Kristen Mitchell and Liz Young contributed to this article.