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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

String of car robberies alarms campus

Published: October 26, 2012
Section: News

With several cars broken into and one student the victim of an unarmed robbery earlier this month, university police have urged students to remain cognizant of criminal activity.

Community members reported at least four cars parked in the Theater and South Residence parking lots broken into on Oct. 13-14, one of them forcibly, with GPS navigation units and money stolen, director of public safety Ed Callahan said.

In a separate incident, an unarmed suspect robbed a female graduate student walking on Oct. 7 on Moody Street at the River Walk, shortly before midnight, Callahan said. The male suspect, described as wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans, took the student’s wallet with money and personal items.

“Tough economy that precipitates these things. Sometimes it’s a factor,” Callahan said. “Things have been relatively quiet, but it’s kind of peculiar that someone would come into the fringes of the campus.”

Several of the cars were left unlocked overnight, and police reminded students not only to always lock vehicles, but also to remove the GPS holders and suction cups often left on windshields, which reveals that a GPS is likely inside the car.

Following a notification to the community on Monday, a student living off campus at the Charlesbank Estates also reported her car entered and a GPS stolen early Sunday morning.

University police increased patrols in parking lots, and reviewed surveillance video footage but because the camera pans across both parking lots, police have not yet found footage of the incidents.

Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, who had her own house broken into within the past year, said that the city’s increased number of break-ins to cars and homes could be linked to the economy’s slow recovery.

“Overall, with the economy, we are having a little spate of things like that but we are vigilant,” McCarthy said.

The Mayor said that a common technique for house break-ins has involved suspects ringing the doorbell and then entering after no one comes to the door.

Regarding, the unarmed robbery, Waltham Police reported the incident to the university, and Callahan notified the community in an email on Oct. 9. He explained how the student tried to catch the suspect immediately after the incident.

“The community member chased after him but obviously couldn’t catch the person,” Callahan said.

Callahan reminded students to remain aware of surroundings at night, and to keep wallets or purses out of plain sight.

“You have to be cognizant of your surroundings,“ Callahan said. “You basically just have to walk with a friend or walk in a group and stay in well-lit areas.”

McCarthy said that Waltham Police regularly patrol the area near the River Walk, including the use of officers on bikes. In addition, she recommended residents to use the city’s anonymous tip line as part of neighborhood crime watch efforts.

In 2011, university police reported one robbery, three burglaries, and one motor vehicle theft on campus, according to the most recent crime data available. Last fall, police reported the robbery of a student in a men’s restroom by a suspect with an unidentified object, following a large concert and dance on campus.

In fall 2010, two students also reported assaults and unarmed robberies off campus on Bedford St. and South St.