Madison residents were victims of three similar strong-armed robberies near the University of Wisconsin campus Monday night, and police say the incidents may be connected.
A 20-year-old female Madison resident was walking on the 400 block of Dayton Street around 9:40 p.m. when a dark-colored vehicle pulled up in front of her, according to an Madison Police Department statement. The suspect approached her and demanded she hand over her cell phone, MPD spokesperson Joel DeSpain said.
Around 11 p.m. the same night, a 20-year-old male Madison resident was robbed on the 1300 block of Milton Street, according to the statement. A dark-colored vehicle pulled up in front of the victim and two suspects approached him, and one suspect restrained the victim while the other took his cell phone, the statement said.
A 20-year-old Madison resident encountered a dark colored vehicle as he was walking down the 400 block of South Randall Street, according to the statement. Two suspects exited the vehicle and followed the victim, the statement said. One suspect put the victim in a chokehold and pulled him to the ground while the other suspect stole his laptop, DeSpain said.
In all three cases, the suspects left in a getaway car driven by a third party, DeSpain said.
DeSpain said it is likely the three cases were connected. MPD suspects a relation between the three cases due to similarities in the style of operation, the descriptions of the suspects, the time frame and the relative proximity between the incidents, he said.
The victims were all college-aged students who lived in the off-campus housing area, DeSpain said. He added all three victims reported seeing a four-door, dark-colored and older model vehicle.
While no weapons were reported in any of the three cases, two of the robberies reported the suspect used physical violence, according to DeSpain. However, no injuries were reported in any of the cases, he said.
The suspects were described by all victims as relatively tall males wearing dark clothing, according to the statement. The victims in the robberies on Milton Street and Randall Street both reported one of the suspects had long, braided hair, the statement said.
DeSpain said MPD always advises students not to walk alone whenever possible and to walk in well-lit areas.
“However, it is not always possible to walk with someone,” DeSpain said. “The victims did the right thing in not putting up a fight and handing over the items.”
According to DeSpain, not much could have been done to prevent the robberies in these cases. He explained this type of robbery occurring at the times it did is not normal for the downtown area. The female victim was walking along Dayton Street, a well-traveled road, not very late at night, he said.
The victims in all three cases were targeted, DeSpain said, adding the three suspects were patrolling the off-campus housing areas looking for college-aged people walking alone at night.
“It is a high priority for us to identify these people and get them off the streets,” DeSpain said.