A string of strong-armed robberies near the University of Wisconsin campus continued with the robbery of a Madison woman Tuesday night.
A 20-year-old female was walking down North Brooks Street at 10:43 p.m. when she noticed a dark-colored vehicle slowly driving behind her, according to a Madison Police Department statement. A man first approached the victim and asked for the date and time, the statement said.
After giving the suspect the requested information, the victim continued walking, the statement said.
According to the statement, the victim then reported hearing someone running up behind her and reaching into her pockets. After struggling with the first suspect, a second male appeared on the scene, pulled her to the ground and took her cell phone, the statement said.
Three strong-armed robberies of a similar nature occurred Monday night on Dayton Street, Milton Street and Randall Street, according to another MPD statement. No injuries were reported in any of the four incidents, the statement said.
According to MPD spokesperson Joel DeSpain, the description of the vehicle, the mode of operating, the time and proximity of the incidents link the cases to the same perpetrators.
The victims in all four cases were targeted, DeSpain said. The three suspects were patrolling the off-campus housing areas looking for college-age people walking alone at night, 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 N. Brooks, Milton and Randall Streets reported one of the suspects had long, braided hair, the statement said.
DeSpain also said the victims described the getaway car as a dark-colored, four door and older model vehicle slightly resembling an old police car. In one case, only one suspect exited the vehicle, while in the others two suspects got out, he said.
“I’m extremely concerned about the crime wave we are experiencing downtown, particularly that students are the targets,” Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said.
Verveer said similar crime waves have occurred in his experience working with police on downtown safety issues. These previous crime waves were connected to gangs, he said.
He explained the four cases are similar to the gang initiation type rituals that targeted downtown residents in previous years.
“The police haven’t said this,” Verveer said. “It’s just my hunch.”
According to DeSpain, it is likely the suspects will strike again in the off-campus area. MPD has deployed additional resources to the off-campus area to address the incidents and prevent them from happening again, he said.
MPD wants to encourage people to report crimes when they take place, DeSpain said. He added people should be aware of their surroundings when walking home and be conscious of any vehicles fitting the description of the suspect vehicle.
“We periodically have a rash of robberies that occur throughout the city,” DeSpain said. “Typically, it is a small group of people that create a problem, and while they are still out there they continue to offend.”
Verveer said he will be meeting with MPD to discuss the situation with them.
“The police are very concerned and are taking this situation very seriously,” Verveer said.