KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Two students were robbed Thursday night by men wearing hoodies and ski masks on the campus of Western Michigan University (WMU). Those same men are believed to have then robbed a convenience store west of campus about an hour after the other two robberies.
“There was like a tiny bit of panic because we didn’t know what it meant by armed robbery,” said Ian Tiefel, a WMU student. “We didn’t know if there were people running around with guns.
Tiefel was one of the students who received an emergency robo-call from the university, warning students that two armed robbers were on the loose. Police said one of them had first taken valuables from a female student near Bigelow Hall, then robbed a male student walking on a paved path near Parking Services on campus. The two then allegedly moved on to rob a 7 -Eleven store about an hour later.
“We’ve heard about stuff happening at other schools in the past and I think a lot of people weren’t ready for it happening here,” said Tiefel.
We talked to Tiefel about campus safety. He did cite some concerns behind Bigelow Hall. “I know I’ve been up here a couple of times before when the lights have been out and it’s just a sketchier place I guess,” said Tiefel.
If you check out the area behind Bigelow Hall, students said it’s not very well-lit. They said people can stand at the top of the hill, which sits behind the residence hall, and watch students come up the stairs from the street area below. They said they can watch them come up the hill and perhaps even prey on the students. “At night when people aren’t really paying attention, you could mess with somebody,” said Tiefel.
Emergency call button stations are located around campus, but the Executive Director of University Relations, Cheryl Roland says they may not have helped in the Thursday night robbery situations.
“If someone is concerned if they have someone following them, the blue lights and the call boxes are available. In this case, the student was just caught by surprise,” said Roland.
The public safety office reports that in 2011 there were no reported robberies on the Kalamazoo campus. However, there were 14 reported burglaries, four sex offenses, two aggravated assaults, one vehicle theft and three arson crimes.
Looking at the past three years from 2009 to 2012, Western reported 10 aggravated assaults, 28 sexual offenses, nine robberies and 77 burglaries.
When comparing some of Western’s crime stats to similar sized schools like Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, statistics showed that from 2009 to 2011, GVSU’s numbers on assaults, robberies and burglaries were the lowest.
Western had the highest number of robberies at nine.
While Central had the higher number of assaults at 11 and burglaries at 89.
“There’s going to be crime no matter where you go,” said Tiefel. He says it’s a matter of staying alert wherever you are and making sure you don’t become complacent on what typically is a friendly safe campus.
“I think a lot of people just kind of looked at it as, I guess, we need to watch out for ourselves more, we need to keep our eyes open and look around for ourselves,” said Tiefel.
There is an escort service available through WMU which runs through 6 a.m. each evening. Western is advising students to use the services available to them.