Josh Akman: Case not closed

In the past month, our campus has been assaulted with three high-profile robberies. First, sometime around Jan. 19, more than $7,000 was stolen from a student’s room in Mitchell Hall. On Feb. 5, two ski mask-clad thieves walked into Ivory Tower, forcibly broke into Pita Pit and stole $5,000. Four days after that, the DACOR Bacon House on 18th and F streets – less than a block from Thurston Hall – was the victim of a late-night robbery. Even scarier here were reports that the thieves were carrying guns during the robbery.

Inexplicably, this is all the information we have for all three incidents. As students at GW and members of the Foggy Bottom/West End community, we deserve much more. In terms of information, transparency and action, the University Police Department has not met its obligations to students.

In the case of the Mitchell Hall robbery, UPD has done nothing to proactively communicate details of the incident with the student body. In fact, The Hatchet learned of the incident through a Metropolitan Police Department report. Frankly, this is not acceptable.

When a residence hall room is forcibly robbed and the security of GW Housing is compromised, students have a right to know. As members of the community and residents of GW Housing, we deserve information on the specific case, what UPD is doing to investigate the case and how we can keep this from happening again.

Our need to know is certainly not voyeuristic – we don’t just want to hear the juicy details – but there needs to be some sort of message from the University about how we can stay safe on campus. Here, there was no such message.

The Pita Pit robbery, too, has left many questions unanswered. When a popular campus dining spot is brazenly robbed, students deserve information. Because students are the primary customers and the theft took place in a residence hall, the University should be actively communicating that something is being done here.

The Bacon House robbery might be the most dangerous situation of the three. Although the house manager of Bacon House promised that “there’s absolutely no indication that there’s any danger to the GW community,” others might disagree. When a possible armed robbery happens less than a block from the biggest residence hall on campus, there seems to be a pretty clear danger to the GW community.

This is not meant to be a blind attack on UPD. There certainly exist some security concerns in sharing information about the robberies, whether for the integrity of the investigation or the security of the respective buildings. However, there needs to be some give and take. If we are expected to live on campus for our first two years at GW, there must be a commitment to our safety that exists beyond closed doors. There must be a concerted effort to keep GW residents updated about their security – and the occasional breaches of this security.

I will concede that UPD is in a tough spot. Much like other law enforcement agencies, their successes often go unnoticed, while their failures are front page news. Still, that does not absolve them from blame in their handling of these cases. One viable suggestion is opening UPD’s records. Several months ago former Hatchet Editor in Chief Jake Sherman highlighted several arguments for why UPD should make its incident reports publicly available in his column “What you don’t know can hurt you” (Dec. 14, p. 4).

Whether or not UPD chooses to open up the records, something must be done to make us feel safer and provide us with the information that we deserve.

The writer, a junior majoring in criminal justice, is a Hatchet columnist.

Readers can visit The Forum to comment on this column.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.