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Gee forms committee after string of robberies near OSU

What is seemingly becoming a frequent happening in the campus area, two more Ohio State students were robbed at gunpoint Wednesday evening.

President E. Gordon Gee issued a plan-of-action to combat the recent string of robberies in the area.

“I have convened a small team of senior University leaders — from Student Life, Public Safety, and other areas — to provide recommendations for a comprehensive program that will help to ensure our students’ safety,” Gee wrote in the email.

Gee said safety of every student is a priority of the university. Two students, however, had both their lives and property put in danger Wednesday evening.

Amy Macynski, a third-year in journalism, and Helena Demacopoulos, a second-year in marketing were in Demacopoulos’ car in the parking lot of an apartment at the corner of Woodruff and Waldeck Avenues at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, when two African-American males approached the vehicle.

“I was typing an address into the GPS and my door opened and a man stuck a gun in my car and pointed it at my friend and said ‘give me everything you have,’ and then he turned and stuck the gun to my head,” Macynski said. “He took everything and he grabbed the GPS out of my hands as well and yelled a couple things but the last thing he said was ‘if you call anybody I’ll f–king kill you.'”

This is the second incident in the last three weeks where female students have been targeted. In the first incident, the victim got away after she began to scream, according to the police report. According to a Timely Warning, which was issued after, the attempted robbery took place Nov. 5 at 5:15 a.m. on Norwich Avenue. The victim reported that she was approached by a black male who brandished a gun and demanded money.

“Helena (Demacopoulos) and I were the first girls to get robbed, so I think the criminals are getting cocky,” Macynski said.

Macynski said she thinks the robbers saw her leave her house, and she will no longer be staying there.

“Because the guys know where I live, until they are caught I am staying with my parents or with a friend,” she said. “I literally have not gone anywhere, even the bathroom without someone by my side. I can’t be alone.”

Demacopolous, who just returned from an internship in Florida two days ago, said she was aware of the recent string of crimes in the campus area.

“Even though I was away I was hearing about these robberies, but I figured if I drove everywhere it would be fine but they actually came into the car with guns and took everything so it seems like you’re not safe anywhere,” Demacopoulos said, adding that she is now afraid to be in her own home.

Both Demacopoulos and Macynski said they are unsatisfied with the university’s response to the recent crimes.

“I know the university has been aware that this is happening but I’m seeing a lot of patterns here: similar times, similar locations and similar descriptions of suspects,” Demacopoulos said. “With all of this going on, I’m surprised campus hasn’t had more patrol in the area.”

Macynski wants to see more response from OSU.

“I’m kind of upset with the university,” Macynski said. “I wanted to see myself in a timely warning email but I haven’t gotten one yet. I want people to know I was in a car and I should feel safe in a car, I should feel safe living in my apartment but I am wary of everybody now, it’s terrible.”

According to the OSU Police Department’s Timely Warning policy, these warnings are subject to their discretion.

“When the OSU Police Division becomes aware of off-campus crimes investigated by the City of Columbus Police that may present a serious or continuing threat to the campus community, a Timely Warning/Crime Alert may be issued. This will be determined by the OSU Police Division on a case-by-case basis based on the facts of the situation, the possible impact to the campus community, and the information provided by the City of Columbus Police,” according to OSU’s Timely Warning policy.

After a student was mugged Tuesday night around 7 p.m. a Timely Warning was issued less than four hours later.

In response to questions about the absence of a Timely Warning for Wednesday’s incident, OSU Police Chief Paul Denton said in an email that he already believes there is an awareness of the recent robberies.

Denton added that the university police is working closely with the Columbus police, and trusts that they will advise the off-campus community appropriately.

Despite the lack of Timely Warnings, it seems that student awareness is on the rise. A petition to increase student safety, created by Michael Dworkin, a fourth-year in math, has received more than 5,000 signatures this week.

The petition calls for OSU to step-up the measures taken to protect students.

Katie Ferman, a third-year in security and intelligence and environmental policy and management, signed the petition after seeing it on a friend’s Facebook page.

“I decided to sign because I agreed with what a lot of the people who had already signed had to say, namely that student safety is an important issue that can no longer go ignored.”

Ferman said that much of the responsibly falls on OSU.

“I believe that the university must take every conceivable step in making the campus area safer for students. The one thing that is inextricably clear is that student safety is not an ideal, but a right, one that no one deserves to have taken away from them,” she said. “I hope that this petition will be an important first step in ensuring that students can get home safely at night without being frightened for their lives and welfare.”

Dworkin said he has reached out to the University Student Government regarding his plan for the petition.

“I plan on turning the petition in, and am corresponding with members of USG as to what the magic number should be,” Dworkin said. “My stance now is that OSU needs to do more to protect its students.”

Nick Messenger, president of the USG, voiced his support for the petition.

“I definitely think the petition is a good thing that we have started to raise awareness so the biggest thing that we can hope to come out of this is to create some proactive change,” Messenger said.

Messenger said that expanding the duties of OSU police is of highest priority.

“The biggest thing is if students can sign the petition, if students send an email, whether it’s to a university administrator just showcasing that we want OSU police to be able to move off-campus, I think that is the big key here,” Messenger said. “We want them to be able to make stops and be proactive in stopping crime instead of just following up on it.”

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