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Boston University evaluating its safety procedures after BU research assistant stabbed and robbed of iPad

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  January 30, 2013 08:15 AM

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Boston University President Robert A. Brown said Wednesday that the university and area officials must re-evaluate their safety procedures after a BU research assistant was stabbed and robbed the night before.

The attack on the Boston University medical school research assistant was the latest in a string of eight incidents of street crime in the area recently.

"Because of the prior series of robberies, we had added Boston University police patrols in the neighborhoods—significantly bolstering coverage," Brown said in a university-wide letter. "But, clearly, recent experience suggests that we must—working with public officials—reevaluate current procedures and seek new approaches.

Brown said the incident Tuesday night "was especially troubling because it is the first instance in which assailants have actively used a weapon rather than the threat of violence."

Tuesday's robbery occurred at about 8:30 pm near the intersection of Browne and Pleasant Streets, about a half mile from the university’s campus, police said.

Early Wednesday afternoon, Brookline police said investigators have information that there may have been a witness to the robbery. They are asking that anyone who may have seen the attack call the Brookline police at 617-730-2222.

Boston University spokesman Colin Riley called the recent string of street crime “unbelievably concerning” and “exceedingly unusual” for the area. Brown said he met with the BU police chief Wednesday morning and BU police are working closely with Brookline police.

“The question is why and how is this happening,” Riley said Wednesday. “For students and parents, we know there is concern out there, and I can assure you it has our full attention.”

Riley said campus officials are advising students and others to be aware of their surroundings; avoid poorly lit areas late at night; get a ride instead of walking; students can request to use the campus’ security escort service; walk in large groups; avoid wearing headphones or using valuable devices like cell phones, tablets and laptops.

In Tuesday's incident, the 30-year-old postdoctoral fellow was thrown to the ground, stabbed and punched, police said. The victim told police that he was grabbed from behind.

A laptop, cellphone and iPad were stolen, police said. "He stated they told him to shut up when he began to argue with them about taking his property,'' Brookline police said in their report.

He was treated at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, according to the university’s news website, BU Today.

Authorities were searching for two suspects described as males, both about six feet tall, wearing fleece pullovers, jeans and knit caps pulled over their faces, officials said.

BU Police sent out a campus-wide emergency alert about a half hour afterward. Suspicious people and activity on or near campus can be reported to the Boston University Police Department by calling 617-353-2121 or texting tip411 (847411), keyword: BU.

Tuesday's incident marked at least the eighth time this academic year that a Boston University student or a university-affiliated individual has reported that others robbed them, or tried to rob them, on or around the university’s Charles River campus that runs along the Boston-Brookline border. In most of the cases, a gun was shown to or pointed at the victims.

Tuesday marked the first time injuries were reported.

Boston University students were robbed in three separate incidents near the campus late on the night of Jan. 18 and into the early morning of Jan. 19.

A Quincy man was arrested and charged for his role in one of those robberies. His alleged accomplice is being sought.

Between late September and early October, a string of four robberies were reported.

In mid-October, three Boston teenagers were arrested and charged in connection with two of those robberies. In December, a Norfolk County grand jury indicted the teens.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at mjrochele@gmail.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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