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Close to home: What it’s like to be a victim of an off-campus crime

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From the beginning of the school year to Thursday, University Police have recorded a total of 923 crime reports at both on- and off-campus locations, according to University Police’s daily log.

Those reports included everything from public urination and underage drinking to burglaries, sexual assaults and disorderly conduct.

And those crimes don’t even include the reports that Columbus Division of Police officers also took in off-campus areas.

The Lantern spoke to some of those victims about what it felt like to be the target of a crime, and about what they want other people in the OSU community to know.

Armed robbery

It was cold outside.

That’s one of the details a fourth-year female student remembered about the night she was held at gunpoint and robbed on an off-campus street.

“He had his hood up, hands in his pockets, but so did I,” she said. “It was cold that night.”

She said she had just left her house on East Woodruff Avenue and was walking with her roommate to a friend’s house on Frambes Avenue. They should have only been outside for 3 minutes.

But then they ran into a man.

The fourth-year thought the man, whom she described as a white male standing about 5-feet-9-inches tall, was just trying to keep warm. She had no idea the man walking toward her was actually hiding a gun in his pocket.

Before she knew it, he had the gun pulled out and pointed right at the two women.

“It was just very fast. It happened so quickly,” she said.

The robber told them to “give him everything they had,” she said. So she threw her wristlet — which contained the keys to her apartment, her credit card, debit card, ID and about $2 in cash — at the man.

The man sprinted away before taking anything from her roommate.

The women immediately ran in the opposite direction and stopped outside of PJ’s Grill, where they felt safe enough to call police.

The student said she felt like she did everything right that night. She wasn’t walking alone — she was walking with a friend. She wasn’t distracted — in fact, she was aware the man was headed toward her.

“Maybe I thought it was fine because this guy wasn’t a threatening size, but that doesn’t matter if someone has a weapon,” she said. “You think if something like that happens, you’d realize it before it happened and get out of the situation. You imagine yourself responding very rationally and thinking through what you’re doing.”

But that’s not what it was like for her.

“The whole thing is very short and what you do is just what you’re going to do,” she said.

The student has since canceled her cards and replaced the locks to her apartment. A Columbus Division of Police web report states the suspect took an estimated $30 worth of items, but she said that’s not what bothers her.

“My wristlet — it was like a Coach wristlet — but it wasn’t worth anything,” she said. “All that stuff’s been replaced. It’s easy to replace those things. It’s just the principle.”

Even though she didn’t do anything wrong that night, she said the incident was a wake-up call.

“I’ve been here for four years. I’m not new to campus. I’ve been around and I’ve been around for a few years. I’m aware that crime happens off-campus,” she said. “But you kind of think you’re safe. I think everyone thinks they’ll be fine. You don’t think this stuff is going to happen.”

And now that she’s gone through it, she said she hopes other people will be more careful.

“Especially if (where you’re headed is) so close, you think you’ll be fine. ‘It’s only a few doors down’ — but it could still happen,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re walking somewhere that’s two minutes away, if you’re walking somewhere that’s 15 minutes away, it doesn’t matter if you’re with someone — just, maybe you shouldn’t walk at night.”

No one was arrested in connection to the robbery, said Columbus Police Commander Christopher Bowling.

Public indecency

When Melanie Rose, a third-year in sport industry, tells the story of the time she heard a knock on her basement window, it sounds a little like déjà vu.

“Me and my roommates were sitting here (on a) Wednesday night watching ‘American Horror Story’ in our apartment. Lights on. The blinds were open, so it was nighttime outside,” Rose said.

Then came the knock.

“I didn’t really know what was going on and thought, ‘Oh, it’s my mind just playing tricks on me,’” Rose said.

But then she realized it wasn’t just her imagination. It was a man standing outside her off-campus apartment window in the nude and masturbating while staring at the girls.

“My one roommate kind of denied it and was like, ‘Oh Melanie, that didn’t happen.’ But I was like — I saw it,” Rose said.

Rose and her roommates live on East 14th Avenue. They didn’t report the incident to police, but two other groups of girls called police for similar incidents just the week before.

The first group of girls live on East Lane Avenue and called Columbus Police on Oct. 9. The second group of girls, who live on East Woodruff Avenue, called officers on Oct. 12.

Rose said it happened to her on Oct. 18.

Bowling said it’s possible the first two instances are related because of similar suspect descriptions and the nature of the incidents.

In each case, the suspect knocked on the basement window to get the women’s attention. It always happened at night, when the perpetrator could more easily see into the apartment, but when the women couldn’t see him that well. Each incident happened east of High Street, and all occurred within a week and a half of each other.

Now, Rose and her roommates are taking extra precautions. She said they always keep their blinds closed — even in broad daylight.

“When I first moved in, if it was the day, I would crack (the windows) open just to get some sunlight. Now, whether I’m consciously doing it or whatever, I just don’t open them anymore just because you don’t know what’s going to be in the window,” Rose said.

For her, it’s just another added comfort.

“I definitely have been prepared and think of the idea that something else could happen like that,” she said. “Just off-campus life — you never know what’s going to happen.”

No one’s been arrested in connection to these incidents, but Bowling said they’ve collected evidence from one of the crime scenes that could help them identify a suspect in the future.

Vandalism

Mikala Shimmel’s off-campus house is her home away from home.

So when she woke up one Sunday morning to the news that someone had vandalized her house, she was scared.

“I imagined stupid stuff would happen,” said Shimmel, a fourth-year in pre-respiratory therapy, about off-campus living. “Yeah, it’s campus — it’s a higher risk, but it freaks you out when you stop and think someone was on your front porch with bad intentions.”

At some point between the late night hours of Nov. 1 and the early morning hours of Nov. 2, someone had climbed onto her front porch and spray painted “666,” a swastika and a Star of David on her front door.

The suspect or suspects had used red spray paint to vandalize the property — and to Shimmel, it looked like blood.

“It was kind of freaky,” Shimmel said. “It was scary to look at and we were the only house on our block that had it.”

Shimmel and her roommates live at Summit Street and East 18th Avenue.

At first, the women thought it was just “someone being drunk and stupid,” but then they worried it might be more serious.

“We were kind of scared because in the last year, I’ve heard some houses in the community have been spray painted and it’s been a target for gang initiation,” Shimmel said. “A part of us was stressed that it could be a gang initiation.”

Shimmel reported the incident to Columbus Police right away. She also called her landlord, who’s since covered up the symbols with a fresh layer of paint.

And — as usual — Shimmel always makes sure to lock her doors.

Bowling said no one has been arrested for committing the crime.

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