Robbers target University of Washington co-eds



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Posted on February 2, 2011 at 11:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 3 at 7:58 PM

SEATTLE - The attacks have been happening at night on streets just off campus. According to police reports, University of Washington students are being confronted and robbed as they walk home to their apartments and sororities or head to nearby restaurants and coffee shops.

The robberies began in late October and Seattle Police Detective Tom Healy quickly realized he had a “pattern case” on his hands. He describes the victim prolife as “lone females, student-age, walking in the University District, primarily at night." No one’s been seriously hurt, but some of the students have been roughed up.

“Knocked down, threatened, grabbed…punched and kicked,” Healy said. In some cases the robber displayed a hand gun.

The robbers apparently drive through the U-District looking for young women walking alone. They jump out of the car, attack the victims from behind and demand cell phones, iPods, computers and other valuables, then speed off.

Detective Healy says he believes there could be several groups responsible for the robberies. They appear to work in teams of 2 or 3, coming in from outside the U-District to target co-eds. There have been at least 12 robberies since October 25, almost one per week. The most recent attack occurred last Friday at 4700 University Way N.E. at 8:40 p.m. 

UW Police Commander Jerome Solomon says he routinely sends out text and e-mail notifications about all crimes that occur on and off campus. The texts go to students and staff.

"We’re a university in an urban setting and just remember that we are in a big city and that crime does happen," Solomon said.

Sophomore Brittanie Vanderweide checks for crime alerts religiously and says she no longer walks alone at night.

“I'm a 19-year-old girl, not very big and most of the notifications we get are about girls getting purses stolen or knocked down or whatever,” Vanderweide said.

Vanderweide lives off campus and says it’s upsetting to think that people would drive to the University District to prey on students.

“It makes me angry cause we're here to go to school and we don't really have very much,” Vanderweide said.

Police are increasing patrols around the sprawling Seattle campus and urging students to call Husky Nightwalk - a free service that will provide an escort if they need to go out between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m.

SPD’s robbery detectives are experts at cracking cases like this. Meantime, they’re asking everyone to stay alert and make personal safety a priority of college life.

There have been no arrests in the UW co-ed robberies and police believe the attempted robbery of a female student at Seattle University Tuesday night was not related.

UPDATED February 3, 2011

After our story aired, we got a better description of the suspects from the Seattle PD Robbery Unit. 

Suspects are primarily described as black males and females, 18-early 20's.  One male described as "taller" (6'1'-6'2", thin athletic build).  One female described as black female, "short" (5'2"-5'4"), heavy set, black hair. 
Cases have variations of suspects. For example, some have 2 black males, some have 2 black females, some have males and females together. However, there are other commonalities to these cases that, at the moment, link them together - such as proximity, times, victim profile, and method of robberies.

SPD robbery unit: (206) 684-5535

Husky Nightwalk: (206) 685-9255