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Three crimes, one spot: Cass Street and North Boulevard

BY Francisco Navarro

Over the past two weeks, UT has alerted students of three crime incidents, all in the same location.

On Jan. 18, after an attempted robbery, a shooting took place at 10:50 p.m. behind the Station Grill Bar. Based on a Tampa Police Department (TPD) report a male was shot and transported by Tampa Fire rescue to Tampa General Hospital, where he was in relative stable condition while preparing for surgery.

The following day, on Jan. 19, three UT students reported an armed robbery at 10 p.m. One week later, on Jan. 29 at 11:30 p.m., an unidentified suspect robbed two UT students of their cell phones and ID’s at gunpoint.

All three incidents took place at the corner of Cass Street and North Boulevard by Oakhurst Square Apartments.

“Living in the Barrymore Hotel, I have to walk back and forth by that place every day. I don’t feel unsafe walking by there, but I should be more aware of my surroundings,”  Nathan Jack, a junior finance major, said. “I think Campus Safety should patrol better the area near that corner because clearly a lot of things have happened there.”

The TPD report of the shooting explained that the shooter resided in an apartment on Oakhurst Square Apartments. Nonetheless, it is not clear if the suspects involved in the robbery incidents are residents as well or are part of the Oakhurst community.

“When it gets dark, I don’t want to be walking around here, even when its day I sometimes don’t feel safe,” said Alexa Pugh, 28, Oakhurst Apartments Resident. “What I would tell you is to make sure you have something to protect yourself with when you walk around here, like a taser, a knife or something.

Pugh, born and raised in a house on Cypress Street next to Oakhurst Apartments, had a strong opinion on the increase of crime incidents in recent years. “I’ve lived here all my life and it wasn’t that bad before, like it is now,” she said.

Campus Safety has given significant importance to this issue. They posted flyers throughout UT’s facilities, buildings, and dorms like Vaughn Center, the Library, the Barrymore Hotel, etc; notifying the students of the incidents and their locations. In addition, they have expressed concern for UT students by sending a Global Message, in which they shared their thoughts on safety and precautions on how to avoid further incidents.

Campus Safety has three units on patrol in each UT building, and in multiple zones inside campus. However, once students leave campus perimeters, safety measures change.  

“Inside of UT we are vigilant, we are constantly on patrol, but once you are outside of campus and crimes happen it is more the duty of the TPD,” William Paniss, Campus Safety Shift Supervisor, said. “Students need to be more aware of their surroundings, and keep their guards out.”

“Definitely carry something to protect yourself with, like mace [pepper spray], when walking by that area,” Paniss said.

It is unknown if TPD are planning to intensify the patrol and safety measures around the corners of Cass Street and North Boulevard.

“It is unusual and scarier for citizens that this type of crime happens to UT students because they are usually minding their own business and not involved in anything bad,” said Stephen Hegarty, public safety information coordinator for TPD.

 UT students constantly walk around that location during the day on their way to class; many times, during the night in direction to Station Grill Bar.

“I haven’t heard anything bad that has happened near here,” Sandi Hein, employee in The Station Grill Bar, said. “It’s not affecting the nightlife of the bar in any way. But then again, I just started to work with Station four weeks ago.”

Yet, even though previous incidents have not affected Station’s nightlife, more life safety incidents are happening more frequently, in the corner of the Oakhurst Square Apartments.

“Any student that goes to a prestigious college like UT, should know the area they are walking around and be aware,”  Hegarty said.

The writer can be reached at francisco.navarro@spartans.ut.edu

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