The University Police Department alerted students to a multiple-suspect robbery near campus almost an hour after city police released an alert for the same incident.
The Metropolitan Police Department sent out an email alert about the Jan. 31 robbery, which happened outside the 7-Eleven at 900 New Hampshire Ave., at about 9:20 p.m., 10 minutes after it occurred.
UPD released a campus-wide alert about the robbery, which police say involved seven or eight suspects, at about 10:10 p.m.
The incident was first reported to the city police, who then contacted UPD, University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said in an email. MPD’s communication director, Gwendolyn Crump, and Csellar both declined to say what time MPD contacted UPD about the robbery.
“We issued the GWAlert after we confirmed the robbery with MPD and interviewed the victim to get a better description of the alleged attackers so that we could distribute a more complete, and as accurate as possible, alert to the community,” Csellar said.
The victim, a 20-year-old man, suffered cuts to his left eyebrow, left chin and below his nose after the suspects attacked him and stole his iPhone 4, according to a police report. He was also cut inside his mouth and lost consciousness, and was taken to the GW Hospital. None of the suspects were armed.
Police consultant Greg Gilbertson said sending out an alert within 15 minutes of a crime can best help police departments find suspects.
“If you have seven or eight young males running around robbing people, that’s a big deal,” he said. “Some sort of alert should have been sent out immediately.”
In fall 2013, police mishandled a pair of gun threats on campus: MPD took several hours to to tell GW police about an armed robbery on campus, and UPD took 15 minutes to tell city police about reports of a gunman in South Hall.
MPD’s alert gave the time of the robbery and described the suspects as “black youths” between the ages of 12 to 16 who were wearing dark clothing. One had a shaved head and two were wearing winter hats. The UPD alert relayed the same information, but left out the time of the incident.
Csellar declined to say whether campus police would increase patrolling in the area where the robbery occurred. She said UPD “provides foot, bike and car patrols of the campus 24/7 and we will continue to do so.”
Violent crimes, like robbery and sexual abuse, and property crimes, like theft and burglary, have both doubled in the New Hampshire Avenue area since 2013, according to MPD crime data. In December, a female student reported that she was raped by multiple attackers less than a block away from where the robbery occurred.
In October, Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell declined to say whether the department would increase patrolling near the Foggy Bottom Metro station after a man allegedly attempted to sexually abuse two female students in the area.
“We prefer not to disclose the locations of our cameras and other security tactics — if we were to do so, it would give people who wish to commit a crime too much information,” he said then.
Experts say UPD should publicize when officers patrol in areas of high crime. Chuck Drago, a former police chief who now advises police departments, said announcing where officers will be can help deter crime.
“That’s a ridiculous practice because you want people to know that you’re out there,” he said. “The objective is always to prevent crime, not to just catch them after it happens.”