Another robbery rekindles safety concerns at University of Tampa

TAMPA — The details of the crime are familiar: a University of Tampa student robbed at gunpoint in the middle of the night, this time on campus, two blocks north of Kennedy Boulevard.

It happened early Sunday to a 19-year-old who managed to run to safety. It was at least the third similar robbery in recent months.

"It's disheartening," said UT spokesman Eric Cardenas.

UT officials try to educate students, many of whom are from out of town, about dangers just off campus, but they say there's only so much they can do.

They've held safety seminars, highlighted concerns in orientation sessions and spread information about taxis. Next semester they will include UT safety phone numbers on student ID cards.

But ultimately, it's up to the students to be aware of their surroundings and take precautions, Cardenas said.

North of campus is the North Boulevard Homes public housing complex, where a suspect in at least one of the robberies fled. South of campus is busy Kennedy Boulevard, where a student was hit by a car last year and killed.

"We have a lot of students from out of state who don't know Tampa very well," Cardenas said. "I think it's part of the education process."

The violence has prompted Tampa police to increase patrols around the campus, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.

All three robberies happened after 2 a.m.

"We've had limited crimes on the campus, but the school is located in the downtown of a major city," McElroy said. "We want to urge the students to exercise personal responsibility."

In January, UT and Tampa police held a student safety seminar, but it "was not very well attended," McElroy said. They're trying to figure out a better way to get the message across, perhaps something online.

In Sunday's robbery, two men approached student Jared Griffin near 310 N Boulevard about 5 a.m. He was on his way to the Metro Market convenience store on Kennedy Boulevard, McElroy said.

Police said Robert Nolan Hall Jr., 21, hit Griffin in the face with a gun several times, and he and 15-year-old Christopher Castro took Griffin's wallet, keys and lighter.

Griffin wasn't seriously hurt, police said, and he ran to get UT security officers after the robbery. The officers chased the suspects into the Oakhurst Square Apartments at 1120 N Boulevard.

Hall was being held in jail without bail on an armed robbery charge. Castro was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center. He also faces an armed robbery charge.

The attack is reminiscent of two others that involved UT students and occurred north of campus.

At 3 a.m. Aug. 19, as Ryan McCall, 21, and a companion approached the base of the Eugene Holtsinger Bridge on N Boulevard, a man approached, demanding money, and shot and killed McCall. The killer is still loose, and police have few leads.

Then, about 2:30 a.m. Nov. 7, UT student Patrick G. Flaherty, 19, and a friend were walking south on N Boulevard near Main Street when a man approached them and asked them to buy drugs, police said. The man pulled a black semiautomatic pistol and robbed them before running into North Boulevard Homes.

That robber was described as black, 18 to 20 years old, about 5 feet 8 inches and 160 pounds, and wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap and a New York Yankees jacket.

Police have made no arrests in that case, either.

Another robbery rekindles safety concerns at University of Tampa 03/01/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 1, 2010 10:49pm]

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