Five armed robberies reported at start of weekend

Police are urging citizens to take steps to avoid being robbed after a string of armed robberies in Champaign-Urbana early Saturday.

Champaign police received three reports of armed robberies, while University of Illinois and Urbana police each had one. The robberies may have involved subjects with similar descriptions, according to police.

UI Interim Police Chief Krystal Fitzpatrick said in a campuswide e-mail that the five armed robberies occurred between 11:30 p.m. Friday and 2:40 a.m. Saturday.

Fitzpatrick said the campus robbery occurred in Illini Grove, the natural area at the northwest corner of Lincoln and Pennsylvania avenues, at 12:04 a.m. Saturday.

The other robberies were reported at White and Third streets, Wright and White streets and Locust and Chalmers streets in Champaign and Busey Avenue and Nevada Street in Urbana.

Urbana police Sgt. Steve Royal said a 21-year-old male was walking alone in the 700 block of South Busey Avenue about1:35 a.m. Saturday when two men approached. One of the men confronted the victim, demanded his wallet and displayed a pistol, he said.

Champaign police Sgt. Aaron Lack said lone men were robbed at gunpoint in all three cases in Champaign. One happened at 11:32 p.m. Friday at White and Third; another took place at 1:22 a.m. Saturday at White and Wright; and another occurred at 2:40 a.m. at Locust and Chalmers.

Fitzpatrick said in each case, one of the men, described as being about 5 feet 8 inches tall and heavyset, wearing all black clothing, including a black knit cap, confronted the victims at gunpoint. Another man, taller and thinner, was seen standing near where the crimes happened, she said.

In all five cases, personal property was taken, but there were no injuries, according to Fitzpatrick.

"These robberies are known as 'crimes of opportunity,' because the criminals look for people they consider the easiest to victimize," Fitzpatrick said. "That means we can all take steps to reduce our chances of becoming a target."

Students and citizens should pay attention to their surroundings and not put themselves in a position where they are not able to detect people approaching.

People should use well-lit and populated routes whenever possible and walk with a friend or join a group, Fitzpatrick said. On campus, students and staff can call SafeRides at 265-7433 or SafeWalks at 333-1216.

Most importantly, if anyone thinks something is suspicious, they should call 911, she said.

Police in all the agencies are cooperating in the investigation, Fitzpatrick said.

Anyone with information about these crimes is urged to call Crimestoppers at 373-8477.

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