SEATTLE — For incoming first year University of Washington students like Sasha Wallace, one of their very first lessons is that the U-District can be a dangerous place.
“They say do not go out at night — ever — unless you’re with a buddy. You can walk around campus, but pretty much try not to go out,” Wallace said.
New students get that warning before they even get to campus, and then again at orientation.
Upperclassmen have been at UW long enough to have seen it for themselves.
“During fall quarter there was a bunch of robberies from people walking home late at night, generally around 1 or 2 a.m. — being held at knife point or gunpoint,” senior Kevin Iverson said.
And that’s what happened in most recent robbery incident just after 1 a.m. Thursday.
Police said two male students were walking on 18th Avenue Northeast near NE 50th Street when they were approached by four men. One of them had a gun and demanded “all of their stuff” and then took off with a cell phone and cash.
“We have a lot of people coming back to school, and certainly when there are a lot of people and a lot of concentration of people, there certainly can be crime,” UW police commander Steve Rittereiser said.
Fortunately, no one was hurt.
UW police are aware of the incident and sent email and text alerts to students.
Meanwhile, efforts have been made to improve lighting in the area and Seattle police patrol off-campus neighborhoods. But campus officials said students simply must raise their sense of awareness to better protect themselves.
“We have people that get distracted with cell phones, ear buds, the kind of things that take your senses away from paying attention to what goes on around you, and that’s the key — paying attention to what’s going on around you,” Commander Rittereiser said.
UW senior Elliott Baglini agrees.
“Just a little bit of common sense can really go a long way as far as protecting yourself and your belongings. Even though we live in a big city, it’s a relatively safe city, but the only way it becomes a problem is when people stop paying attention,” Baglini said.
“It’s just expected in a big city. There are going to be people that are going to prey on easy targets and if you’re walking home late at night and you’re by yourself and you have your face down, you’re not being aware of what’s going on — you’re an easy target,” senior Kevin Iverson said.
Police don’t have a good description of the suspects and they want to talk with anyone who saw anything. And campus police urge students to take advantage of the Husky Night Walk and Night Ride programs if you need someone to walk with you or drive you somewhere.
Details of the programs can be found on the UW website.