Halloween robberies add to growing list near U

Three incidents near campus have police upping their presence.

Nicholas Studenski

Over Halloween weekend, three robberies added to the growing number of violent crimes reported this semester around the University of Minnesota campus.

University police Chief Greg Hestness emailed a crime alert to students Friday afternoon detailing the three incidents on campus Thursday and Friday night. Hestness said in the alert that he asked Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau to make the area around the University a “top priority” following the recent robberies.

Around 1:20 a.m. Friday morning, four people — three of whom are University students — were the victims of a robbery and assault at the intersection of 14th Avenue Southeast and Sixth Street Southeast, according to a Minneapolis police report.

Electrical engineering junior Wyatt Zulkosky said he was walking with friends early Friday morning when he ran into a woman who was upset because she had been robbed. He said he and his friends were walking in the direction the woman said the suspects had gone, when they saw a man rob psychology sophomore Paige Kessler.

Kessler said a man approached her while she was walking alone with her boyfriend. He then hit her in the face and stole her purse, which had her iPhone and keys.

Zulkosky said Kessler’s boyfriend attempted to confront the suspect and his companions.

When the suspects started to run away, Zulkosky said, he and his friends started swearing at them. The suspects turned and attempted to hit Zulkosky and his friends.

He said one suspect threw a cinder block that only narrowly missed a witness on a nearby second-story balcony.

“They missed them by like a foot. It probably would have knocked them out,” he said.

One of the witnesses called the police. Zulkosky said he thought the police response was effective.

“It was really nice to see how many police showed up,” he said. “They came in from every block and were actually able to catch them.”

Zulkosky said he saw at least three suspects. Police identified and arrested two suspects, according to the police report. One or two suspects may still be at large, according to the email.

University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said UMPD’s three-person coordinated response team was working to minimize robberies on campus over the weekend.

University police made contact with four groups of people they identified as “suspicious.” Miner said he believes the additional officers made a difference.

“We’ve been pleased with the activities over the weekend,” he said.

Miner said the suspects in the recent robberies and other incidents were not affiliated with the University.

“It’s part of a trend of more people without a tie to the University hanging out in the Dinkytown area,” he said. “It’s an unusual trend.”

Miner said the best way to stay safe on campus is to call the Security Monitor Program.

“We’ve never had anybody victimized while using the escort service,” he said.

Kessler said she usually felt comfortable on campus, but the recent string of robberies worries her.

“I think it’s actually getting really bad,” she said.

Federal law requires UMPD to alert students when violent crimes happen near University-affiliated buildings.

The email crime alert advised students to walk in groups. Kessler said she was surprised that the incident happened when she was walking with her boyfriend, within eyeshot of several other people.

Friday’s crime alert is the sixth that University police have sent since the start of fall semester, reporting a total of 12 violent crimes on or near campus.

In an incident just before midnight Thursday, a suspect approached two victims — one a University student — near the intersection of University and 27th avenues southeast, according to a Minneapolis police report.

The suspect asked to borrow a cellphone and one of the victims offered one, according to the email. The suspect then pointed a handgun at the victims and demanded their valuables, taking two cellphones and a wallet.

In an incident around 12:30 a.m. Friday, three University students were in a house near the intersection of University and 18th avenues southeast when they found that two men had entered the house through a basement window, according to the email. The suspects, armed with a hammer and a knife, respectively, stole an iPhone and a purse, according to the email.