Twelve people walking at night have been robbed at gunpoint in Uniondale and Hempstead in the past month — a crime wave that Nassau police say could be the work of a single band of thieves.
"It seems the defendants appear to be targeting young people walking home at night," said police spokesman Insp. Kenneth Lack.
Police are investigating whether two men and a woman charged Tuesday with an armed robbery Monday in Uniondale committed the other robberies, which occurred between midnight and 4 a.m. The suspects, either one or three at a time, wore dark hoodies and sometimes covered their faces with white bandannas.
Of the seven robberies since Aug. 30, police said four involved Hofstra University students, prompting beefed-up security around the campus.
An 18-year-old male Nassau Community College student, who was robbed at gunpoint for $2 and an iPod, was struck in the face by an assailant with a silver revolver, sending him to the hospital with cuts and bruises, police said Wednesday.
Lack said police contacted Hofstra officials about the incidents and added extra uniformed officers and undercover officers from the Bureau of Special Operations and Community Emergency Response Team.
Police also used license-plate readers, monitored pole cameras and did license and permit checks at bars around the campus. The stepped-up enforcement resulted in 46 arrests since Aug. 30, Lack said.
Karla Schuster, a university spokeswoman, said the school sent out emails or texts to students when police notified them of the robberies, which took place about a mile from Hofstra.
"We continue to work closely with local police jurisdictions in an effort to keep our community safe on and off-campus," she said in a statement.
According to Nassau police figures, robberies are down countywide this year over last year's by 2.48 percent. Robberies in the First Precinct, which encompasses part of the campus, are down 41 percent.
Michelle Faulk, 21, a Hofstra sophomore, said she has received university alerts about off-campus crime. She said she and her friends rarely go to area bars due to safety concerns. "I'm surprised people still go out at night around here," said Faulk, of Auburn.
Her friend Ashany Perez, also a sophomore, said she takes the campus shuttle and doesn't go out alone. "We don't leave campus anymore without a group of people," said Perez, 20, of Clifton, N.J.
In the most recent robbery possibly linked to the crew, Nassau police arrested Jonathan Chappell, 22, of Hempstead, who allegedly brandished a shotgun at a male victim, who he approached at Edgemere Avenue and Linwood Street on Monday.
First Precinct officers also arrested Jamel Williams, 28, and Miriam Khalifah, 31, both of Hempstead, on robbery charges in that incident. Police said they have connected Chappell and Williams to an attempted robbery in Uniondale Sept. 19.
Each of the three is charged with first-degree robbery; Chappell had other charges. Chappell and Williams were held on $40,000 bonds and Khalifah on $20,000 bond Tuesday. According to online criminal records, Chappell pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 6 months in prison on a 2009 charge of criminal mischief. Charges from that same case of third-degree robbery and petit larceny were dropped. He also pleaded guilty to second degree strangulation in 2010 and was sentenced to one year in prison.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified the school that the 18-year-old victim attends. Police now say the victim was a student at Nassau Community College.