BREAKING: Armed robberies stun Wake Forest campus
On Nov. 7, Wake Forest University students and visitors walked along the paved path that connects the university to Reynolda Village. Brightly colored leaves crunched underfoot as a young family took their toddler for a stroll. A young female jogger emerged from the heavily wooded area that serves as a natural boundary between the university and the upscale row of shops and restaurants just off Reynolda Road. Just 24 hours prior, two male Wake Forest students told Wake Forest police they had been robbed while jogging on the paved path. However, a subsequent investigation by university officials has concluded the incident never occurred.
The students told Wake Forest police that they were robbed at 6:40 a.m. when a man armed with a handgun came out of the woods and demanded money from them. On Nov. 11, university police informed school officials and the Winston-Salem Police Department their investigation concluded the students’ claim was a hoax. The matter has been referred to the university’s Office of the Dean of Students for appropriate action, according the Wake Forest University News Service. However, investigations by the Wake Forest and Winston-Salem poice into recent armed robberies of students that have occurred on or near the campus are ongoing.
“It’s been an unusual week,” university spokesman Kevin Cox said on Nov. 7. “We’ve had in years past similar incidents occurring but it’s unusual for us to have a series of these. This is not routine.”
Crime statistics compiled by the Wake Forest University Police Department back up Cox’s assertion. Until two weeks ago, there had only been one reported robbery of a Wake student on or near the campus in the past three years. On Oct. 28, a female student was robbed at gunpoint while walking from her car to her home at Deacon Ridge, a housing complex just north of campus on University Parkway. The student was in her car in the parking lot when a man armed with a handgun approached her and robbed her before fleeing, according to university police reports.
On Oct. 30, a female Wake student was robbed and kidnapped in a parking lot on campus in an incident eerily reminiscent of what happened to Eve Carson, the UNC-Chapel Hill student body president gunned down near campus in March. Both men charged in Carson’s murder used her ATM card the night of the incident.
According to university police reports, a man armed with a handgun approached the female student as she was getting out of her car. The armed robber forced the student to drive him to ATM machines in Winston-Salem before he got out of the car in the Kimberly Park area, near downtown. On Oct. 27, in a seemingly unrelated incident, a 76-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint near Brookwood Avenue in Winston-Salem. No injuries were reported in any of the incidents.
Cox said the two male students who made the false report contacted police from an emergency call box on the jogging path and university police responded “in a couple of minutes.” The Winston-Salem Police Department assisted immediately, bringing in officers and a tracking dog. For a period of time, the path was closed as officers searched it and nearby woods. By 8 a.m. that morning, Wake Forest University President Nathan O. Hatch e-mailed a letter to students, faculty and staff, stating that in addition to increased university police patrols of the Reynolda Village footpath and the campus’ north perimeter, gatehouses would restrict access from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and the Polo Road entrance would be closed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Hatch advised students, faculty and staff to exercise caution and report any suspicious situation or persons to university police or dial 911. In his e-mail, Hatch wrote that “no security measures can take the place of your remaining alert to potentially dangerous situations, taking reasonable precautions and immediately reporting any suspicious situations or persons” to Wake Forest or Winston-Salem police.
Cox said the university takes several measures to help ensure student safety, including a safety component of freshman orientation.
“Students are told to take reasonable steps to ensure their personal safety and their personal property,” Cox said. “There’s a lot of effort put into telling students to take care. We put a lot of emphasis on encouraging students to take the shuttle. Business is pretty good but we could accommodate more riders.”
Safety measures in place at Wake Forest include improved on-campus lighting, emergency call boxes, card access security for dormitories and campus shuttles that run past 2:30 a.m. daily.
According to Wake Forest University Police, there were 69 burglaries on campus reported in 2005, 83 burglaries reported in 2006 and 86 burglaries last year. In 2007, there was one forcible sex offense incident reported and one incident of arson reported. There were no reported incidents of murder, negligent manslaughter, robbery, aggravated assault or motor vehicle theft on Wake’s campus in 2007, according to university police records.
“We’re not separate from the world,” Cox said. “We’re in the city. These incidents happen in the city. Universities have to deal with this. We can’t close ourselves off from the world.”
To comment on this story, e-mail Keith T. Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story corrects the print version that mistakenly went to press without information on the third incident, which police deemed a hoax.