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Increase in awareness, but no increase in robberies, Police say

During a time in the campus area where there seems to be another armed robbery every time you turn around, one Columbus Division of Police chief said this does not mean there is an increase in crime.

Chief Tim Becker of the Columbus Division of Police said that in the campus area, there has only been one more robbery compared to this time last year.

“Looking over the last five years, it’s falling within the historical norm, so there isn’t a crime wave,” Becker said. “Maybe this particular pattern is getting more attention than normal.”

The “attention” that Becker is referring to is the increased use of the Timely Warning system that Ohio State Police uses to warn students of an immediate threat.

According to the policy, to which OSU Police Chief Paul Denton referred The Lantern, said that the use of the warning system, as it pertains to an off-campus event, is under the discretion of the department.

Since Oct. 30, University police have issued five warnings for robberies in the campus area. During all of Fall Quarter last year, the department only issued two warnings.

“I don’t know why OSU’s policy changed in terms of issuing, that’s not something that we have any factor in,” Becker said.

Becker said the department recognizes the problem in the campus area.

“We do recognize that there has been a lot of attention given to robberies in the recent months up in campus, and we are dedicating a lot of resources up there to try to stop the robberies,” Becker said.

Becker is not the only one that has taken notice. In the last two weeks, two OSU officials have sent emails to students, faculty and staff, acknowledging the problem in the campus area.

OSU President E. Gordon Gee sent an email Thursday with a promise to make a change.

“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.

Becker said that as of Friday, he was unaware of any Columbus police involvement.

Undergraduate Student Government President Nick Messenger told The Lantern that he plans on collecting signatures Monday to improve the safety of the off-campus area. The petition will call for increased lighting, increased patrols and to further expand the Student Safety Service.

Gee’s email set a timeline of two weeks to take action about the robberies in the area.

“The team’s recommendations are due to me next week, and we will begin implementing new strategies the following week,” Gee wrote in the email.

Becker said the current Timely Warning system is a good thing for campus.

“I think it’s actually a great tool to get more information out,” Becker said. “The more informed people are, the less likely they are to be victims.”

In some cases, such as an armed robbery that occurred on Wednesday evening when two female students were robbed at gunpoint, a warning was not sent to students. Denton told The Lantern that the notification of the public would be the responsibility of Columbus police.

“(University police) notifies us when they do send a warning,” Becker said. “They have a mechanism to send warnings. The Columbus Division of Police does not have that same mechanism.”

The Lantern reported on Friday that one arrest was made in the case involving the armed robbery on Wednesday. Police arrested a 17-year-old female for possession of property belonging to the victims from Wednesday’s robbery.

Becker said Columbus police and University police have been working together for more than 20 years, his entire time with the department.

“We are in constant talks with OSU police on a daily matter from our detectives all the way up to Chief Denton,” Becker said. “We are constantly sharing information… ultimately we investigate separately, but we try to coordinate as much as possible so we can both be as effective as possible.”

Messenger said that more collaboration between the two departments is a necessity to help deter crime from the campus area.

Becker said the biggest help students can be is to be aware of their surroundings. Whether to deter from being a victim, or helping out another student, Becker said awareness is key.

“If you see something that doesn’t look right to another student, pay attention,” Becker said. “You may not be a victim of the crime, but you may be a good witness if you are paying attention to what’s going on.”

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