When VCU student Erinn Budd was walking home from her closing shift at the Cary Street Gym last fall, a mugger asked for her phone. Budd chose not to oblige.
“It was about 12:45 a.m.,” Budd said.” “I was walking past the alleyway behind Virginia Book Company and I saw a girl come out of the alley. I walked a little faster because she started following me.”
After she picked up her pace, Budd said the person following her did so as well.
“She then walked up to me and said ‘Give me your phone.’ I told her no. She responded. ‘I have a knife and will stab you.’” Budd said. “As she pulled out the knife. I looked at her and the knife, and told her ‘I have health insurance.’”
After about three minutes of fighting, Budd ended up on top of the mugger, left her in the street and walked home.
Budd said she made the decision to fight back because she didn’t want to be just another case of a student getting robbed.
“I refuse to be a crime alert. I’m not from Virginia and back at home, once people know you’ve been robbed, they will continue to rob you. You’re now an easy target. I work too hard to have someone take what I worked for,” she said.
Though Budd walked away from her case unharmed, VCU Police officer Matthew Ruland said he would not advise standing up to a mugger in any circumstance.
“VCU is in an urban environment, so things do happen. We always recommend calling the police and not taking matters into your own hands,” Ruland said. “There is always the potential someone could hold off a mugger, but don’t put your stock in it.”
Budd said she disagreed, and students should try to defend themselves.
“At the end of the day, you have the choice of being a victim or standing up for yourself,” she said.
Ruland said students, to an extent, can take things into their own hands.
“There are several ways to be proactive. Anyone can carry alarm devices and pepper spray or take a self-defense class,” he said. “It is also important for students to be fully aware of their surroundings. Don’t be on your phone and wandering around distracted late at night.”
The VCU PD offers several crime-based prevention and recovery programs including the Victim-Witness Program and Rape Aggression Defense training.
Both Ruland and Budd said they agreed that some instances are not preventable, but awareness could help lead to safety.
“Just be aware of your surroundings,” Budd said. “Even though VCU is a college campus, it is in the middle of Richmond, which used to be in the top in the country in murder rates.”
Ruland also cited the over 350 on-campus emergency phones as a tool for threatened students to use. Budd said she has noticed an increase in police and security coverage since her incident.
“At the time, I did not believe that they (VCU PD) were staffed enough to handle the large amount of robberies that were going on. Recently, I believe that they have been a lot better due to the installation of all the cameras on campus,” Budd said.
Even though standing up to a mugger could lead to not getting robbed, Ruland said there are legal repercussions for engaging.
“A student could get charged with assault in an instance of self-defense,” Ruland said. “It is judged case-by-case, but there is always that potential.”
Amir Vera contributed reporting to this story.