Saturday, August 24

Cooperage robbery raises security issues


The Associated Students UCLA is re-examining its security
policies after an armed robbery occurred in the Cooperage while no
security guard was on duty.

The robbery happened when a man snuck into a back office of the
Cooperage, which contains several campus restaurants and a seating
area, on the evening of Jan. 5, the Thursday before classes began
for winter quarter.

There was no ASUCLA security guard on duty during the robbery,
which happened around 7:30 p.m., according to an ASUCLA official
familiar with security policies.

As employees were closing the cash registers for the night, the
intruder, wielding a sharp object thought to be a knife or
scissors, grabbed a student employee and held her, demanding money
from the registers, according to the employee.

Though the room containing the safe was open, the robber did not
ask for any of that money, the employee said. He became frantic in
demanding that the other employees bag up the cash, she said.

“I think he was freaking out,” she said.

He was given about $1,800 and fled from the building.

During the incident, the student employee ““ who asked not
to be identified because the suspect has not been caught ““
was cut on her finger and required surgery the next week.

She said she did not realize what was happening, and so reached
behind her back, at which point she was cut. She did not know if
the laceration was intentional.

On Monday, university police released a detailed sketch of the
suspect, who is described as a black male, 5 feet 10 inches and 180
pounds, with short black hair and brown eyes.

Bob Williams, executive director of ASUCLA, declined to discuss
the association’s current security procedures or whether
officials have made changes since the Cooperage robbery. But he
said ASUCLA’s security is “very good” and that in
the 26 years he has worked with the association, he did not know of
another armed robbery occurring.

“Up until that moment, one would have thought that the
system was very safe, safe enough, but clearly something happened
that makes us want to rethink every aspect of what we do. And we
will,” he said.

“If there’s a way I can make it safer, I will do
everything possible to make it safer for my employees,”
Williams added.

Williams said the presence or absence of a security guard had no
bearing on the incident.

“Whether the security guard was here or not had nothing to
do with what happened in this case,” Williams said. “In
the instance of a robbery … or an instance of this type, the
security we would use is the police on campus.”

“We do not have security guards that play that role in the
association,” he said. “There are no security people
assigned to stop a robbery.”

Rather, Williams said, security personnel employed by ASUCLA do
tasks such as making sure doors are locked or preventing
shoplifting, but he declined to go into specifics of security
personnel’s duties. He said managers are trained to handle
similar situations, and “everybody involved in the incident
did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

“Does that mean if we had a security person here they
might be able to help in an incident like that? And help coordinate
with the police? Well, they could and they might,” Williams
said.

The student employee said her finger should heal completely in a
couple of months, but her sense of security on campus was
shaken.

She said that on a recent evening, she was afraid to walk a
short distance from a parking lot to a campus building ““
“a 2-minute walk,” she said. But she is trying to force
herself to do things normally again.

“I think I’m relatively okay, at least, (I am) now.
I was just kind of in shock. You can’t really believe that
kind of thing happens to you,” she said. “Honestly, I
never really felt unsafe (in the Cooperage). It’s just very
weird.”

UCPD encourages anyone with information about the incident
or about the suspect to call UCPD at (310) 825-1491.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.