Students escape robbery at Aston Hall

A male suspect attempted to rob two female students in Aston Hall early Sunday morning after following them into the building, a UPD official said. A Community Host was scheduled to sit at the front door when the incident happened, but nobody was there when the man entered.

The suspect, described as a 5-foot 6-inch black man wearing khaki pants and a white tank top, followed the students into the elevator when he told them it was a stick up and demanded their money, said Dolores Stafford, director of UPD.

One of the students in the elevator, who asked not be identified, said the area around the outside the residence hall was deserted when she arrived at 2:30 a.m.

The student said she believed the suspect had been drinking and he warned the students not to holler. She said he was unarmed.

Once the women arrived at the fifth floor, they exited the elevator without incident. The students escaped without any property taken.

I just pushed by his arms and he didn’t try and stop us at all, one of the females said. At some point when the doors opened he said, `Oh, I’m just kidding.’

After leaving the elevator, the students called UPD.

Despite the suspect’s comment that the incident was a joke, UPD is investigating the incident as an attempted robbery, Stafford said.

The Community Host scheduled to control entrance into the building quit a few days before this incident occurred, Community Director Tara Woolfson said. Although the CH who worked the previous shift stayed after his shift ended, the Community Living and Learning Center was unable to assign a new person to fill the shift, Woolfson said.

The female student said UPD was quick to respond to her call early Sunday.

(UPD) came very quickly. They checked the building, talked to us for a minute and we told them (about the incident), she said. I kind of was worried. What if he had gone into somebody’s room?

The student said the University offered to move her out of the room, but she has decided to stay in the Aston.

Other residents of the Aston have voiced concern over recurring security problems in the building.

In February a homeless man wandered into the Aston and was arrested, according to a Feb. 14 article in The Hatchet. Seven Aston residents reported laptop computers stolen from the building over winter break last year, according to a Jan. 24 article in The Hatchet.

It’s the University’s responsibility to make sure we’re not getting mugged in our room, said sophomore Faith Lovell, who installed an electronic alarm system in her room after hearing stories about last year’s incidents.

Lovell said students’ security should be more important to the University than it shows, especially since students in the Aston pay the highest room rate on campus, she said.

The University’s not (strapped) for cash, Lovell said. Security should be one of their first concerns.

Some students said they feel unsafe in the building.

I want to move out, sophomore Erin Lankau said. It’s kind of just scary at night.

A CH on duty Wednesday night said she has noticed people looking into the building at night but turning away when they realize the door is locked.

Woolfson said that although no plans are definite, the idea of having a UPD officer stationed in the Aston lobby is being explored.

It’s a viable option definitely, she said. UPD and the deans have been talking about the feasibility and the necessity.

Stafford said that UPD officers typically patrol the building every two hours, but have started to patrol in 75 minute intervals. The Aston also has video cameras at the entrance of the building. Stafford said she could not disclose what was recorded Sunday morning until the investigation was complete.

Woolfson said CHs usually work from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Since the incident, CHs in the Aston have worked until 7 a.m., she said. The University will also install a CH desk bolted to the floor with a card reader on it, and a permanent phone line in the lobby, Woolfson said. CHs currently use a phone in a first-floor office to make calls. The University might also install a UPD panic button near the building, she said.

The students who were threatened Sunday morning said they are still unnerved by the incident.

In any situation, something like this is going to make you nervous about your surroundings in general, the victim said. But everyday it gets better.

A hall meeting was called Wednesday evening to discuss the incident with residents of the Aston and to suggest safety tips.

The incident made (the victims) feel uncomfortable about the building and uncomfortable about their personal safety, Woolfson said at the meeting.

At the meeting, UPD Cpl. Mark Balazik discussed improvements UPD has made to the building since the beginning of last year – including a card reader to gain access to the elevator, cameras in public areas of the building and reprogramming of the key card system to prevent unauthorized master key entrance.

Balazik also gave Aston residents advice in self-defense.

Don’t be meek, Balazik said. Don’t be afraid to make noise and be confrontational.

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