College students are heading back to campus so Columbia police are warning them, and their parents, about four armed robberies of students in the last two weeks.
The robberies happened in or around Benedict College and Allen University, which are next to each other in Columbia and not far from the University of South Carolina's campus. Police don't know yet if the robberies were committed by the same person or persons, but there are similarities.
Columbia Police Department spokesperson Jennifer Timmons says, "The key here is they're looking for cell phones, specifically these iPhones. And the people, they might be carrying them in their hands so it's visible. So the bad guys are doing their homework. They know this individual has a cell phone and I want it too."
The first incident happened Aug. 3. A group of four men were walking near the two campuses around 10:15 at night and were approached by three men, one of whom was carrying a gun. The men demanded the victims' belongings but then ran without taking anything.
The next night, again around 10:15, a man walking with friends was approached by one man who had a gun tucked into his pants. The man took the victim's cell phone and shoes.
The third incident happened on Aug. 11. Around 1:45 a.m., a man walking through a parking lot was approached by two men, one of whom had a gun and demanded his cell phone. The victim gave it to them and the robbers ran off.
The final incident happened on Aug. 12 around 9:30 p.m. Four Allen students were walking and were approached by three men who held them at gunpoint and stole the students' cell phones.
Timmons says Columbia Police have increased patrols in the area.
Allen student Tiffany Fuller, who's from Greenville, says she feels safe. "They pushed our curfew back from 2 to 12, so everybody's been in by a certain time, so that's keeping it down."
Fellow Allen student Laila Blanding, from Augusta, says, "I feel pretty protected now that the police are around 24 hours. And I don't really go out after the street lights come on, so I'm already in my dorm."
Columbia Police are giving all students tips to stay safe.
1. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Try not to walk alone, especially at night, and walk in heavily-traveled areas. At night, try to avoid alleys or dark side roads.
2. Try not to carry valuables, like your cell phone, in your hand. Try not to wear fancy jewelry and, if possible, don't carry much cash.
3. If you are robbed, Timmons says comply with the robber's demands.
"I believe there were two cases where the suspect pulled up his shirt and displayed a weapon when the victim said, 'I'm not going to give you my cell phone.' A cell phone is not worth your life. This iPhone, a Samsung, another cell phone, is not worth your life. Just comply with their demands," Timmons says.