Armed robberies hit student neighbourhood

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Last week saw three reported cases of a robbery involving a handgun in one of the most heavily student-populated areas of Waterloo. Two of the robberies happened to the same victim.

Kevin, a 22-year-old former Wilfrid Laurier University student, who asked The Cord to withhold his last name, was at the corner of Hickory and Albert Streets around 1:45 last Thursday morning when a man got out of a silver car and began walking behind him.

“He got my attention, he said ‘hey you,’ and as soon as I turn around I’ve got a pistol pointed at me,” said Kevin. “It was pretty surreal, I’ve never really heard of anything like that happening. He got my wallet and my cell phone but I really didn’t have anything else too valuable.”

Kevin reported the incident to police shortly thereafter. However, two days later he found himself in a painfully similar situation.

Early Saturday morning Kevin was once again walking west on Hickory Street when a small, silver “older-looking” SUV dropped three men off in front of Laurier’s Northdale Campus building on Hickory, near Larch Street. The three men were walking slowly in front of Kevin and when he went to pass them near Albert Street, for the second time in three days he was being robbed at gunpoint.

“It didn’t feel real at first. He caught my attention and I turned around and he’s pointing a gun at me and I had to kind of chuckle,” said Kevin. “Mostly out of shock, because it’s just so ridiculous that that could happen twice in such a short amount of time.”

Still without a wallet and cell phone from the first time he was robbed, Kevin was only able to hand the men the roughly $30 cash he had on him. The car that dropped the group off then picked them up on Albert and drove off.

A fourth-year Laurier student who asked to remain anonymous has a strikingly similar story. Early Thursday morning, he was walking through Veteran’s Green toward Hazel street when a man got out of a vehicle, which the student described as similar to a Jeep and demanded his possessions, brandishing a handgun.

The gunman took the victim’s wallet and iPhone and fled the area.
“Clearly there seems to be a number of strong similarities amongst the three incidents that we’re looking at right now,” said Olaf Heinzel, public affairs co-ordinator for the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS). However, Heinzel went on to say that despite the striking similarities, police are not assuming the incidents on Thursday and Saturday are connected.

And Kevin can back that theory up.

“They were different people [on each night] for sure,” he said, describing the suspects. “Different cars, different people, but it was an identical time of night, same intersection … You can’t immediately draw the conclusion that it’s the same people involved, but the situations are so similar.”

The other victim from Thursday’s incidents described the suspect as a black male wearing baggy clothing.

Kevin described the gunman from Saturday as a black male, however he was unable to get a good look at the two men accompanying the suspect.
Now over the initial shock of being robbed, Kevin is simply surprised that incidents like these could even happen in the neighbourhood he’s lived in for nearly five years.

“I’ve never heard of anyone even getting mugged around here, let alone getting held up with a gun,” he said. “It really just seems surreal. You never hear of that stuff happening and then in one week you have it happen three times right here.”

According to Heinzel, police have been getting reports of similar incidents happening throughout the region.

“This type of incident has probably been going on across the region in some form since last summer, but in different areas,” he said.

“We made a huge number of arrests this fall relating to these kinds of incidents and unfortunately it’s started happening again.”

Heinzel could not confirm that there would be a heightened police presence in the area and stressed that the public should take personal safety precautions such as walking in groups, sticking to well-lit, well- travelled areas and concealing personal electronics.

“The incidents reported to us at this point would indicate that the suspect or suspects are after property,” said Heinzel.

“They’re not interested in harming anyone, they’re just interested in obtaining a person’s property and then after that seem to flee …. But if you find yourself in that situation, remember your personal safety.”

The WRPS is currently working with both victims to try and pinpoint the suspects.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Waterloo Regional Police at 519-650-8500, ext. 3399 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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