String of armed robberies near campus

January 29, 2008 6:20:15 PM PST
Five armed robberies in the last week and a half have some folks in an upscale southwest Houston community on edge. Police are now trying to figure out if they are connected.Houston police and Rice University police are working together on the five reported robberies. One question they are trying to answer, is it the same gunman in all of them?

Rice University police say the victim in the latest armed robbery was a graduate student walking off campus. Student Jerry Vera says he's been looking over his shoulder.

"Other than carrying a pocket knife or mace, I guess that's the only thing you can do, hold onto your backpack and have your cell phone ready," Vera said.

Rice University Police Captain Dianna Marshall says the student was approached on Mandell at gunpoint Monday night and the hooded suspect demanded his wallet.

Marshall said, "He asked for his PIN number and, quick thinking, he gave him a number that was not his PIN number."

The student ran to his graduate apartment where he reported the crime to an on-duty officer.

"It concerns us any time there is crime in the neighborhood, because there is always the possibility it could spill over onto the campus," Marshall said.

Houston police say they are investigating four similar robberies just north of campus. From January 17th near the Raven Grill to Monday night just 15 minutes before the Rice graduate student was robbed there was a similar report near Poe Elementary.

Houston police say it is unusual to see this within the boundaries of this particular beat area which extends beyond the locations of these robberies and includes the Village area to the south. There was a decrease in crime last year with robberies down 30% and overall violent crime down 18%.

Houston police are increasing patrols in the neighborhood, while many who live, work or study in the area say they are on guard. Rice employee Satten Moffett said, "I try to be surrounded with people and walk with someone or have them drive me to my car."

Houston police have come up with a possible car description that may have been involved with some of the robberies -- a late 80's model maroon Lincoln Towncar.

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