The start of a new school year means reuniting with friends, catching up on summer vacations, and sharing any interesting news. This year, however, students were shocked to learn that a series of crimes had taken place in their absence just down the street.

Over the summer, two beloved restaurants, Willy’s and OK Cafe, were robbed at gunpoint. The details are those of a classic robbery: masked men pointing their guns at innocent employees and guests, demanding all their money. Thankfully no one was hurt in either incident, but it still unsettled many Pace students and teachers. Eleventh grade dean Mr. Hattori expressed his worries, saying that he was “concerned that there is crime so close to Pace Academy and so near to the students.”

Until recently, many Pace students were unaware of the robberies because they were out of town all summer, but students who stayed near home found out as soon as they happened. Junior Claire Wiskind went to Willy’s only a few hours after the robbery took place and said that there were multiple police cars in the parking lot but that the people at Willy’s didn’t seem too shaken up. Claire was adamant that these robberies wouldn’t scare her away, saying, “I’ll still always go down to the West Paces shopping center.” Many students share her feelings. “It doesn’t really worry me, since crimes happen all the time,” noted junior Katja Martin.

Pace security director Mr. Johnson, however, viewed these events differently. Mr. Johnson said that he and his team are now on the alert at all times and are trying to get people to be more aware of what’s going on around them. Mr. Johnson said that students should not leave expensive items visible in their cars, such as iPads. He added that Pace has taken more intensive security measures and that “we do more rounds and have more police officers in the area.” Mr. Johnson wants teachers and students to be more careful, adding that crime may actually increase during the school year because there are more people around.

Despite knowledge of these frightening events, Pace students don’t plan to avoid the shopping center. Sophomore Camille Smith said that she continues to visit the corner because she likes all the stores down there. Freshman Elizabeth Willis said that she would be going there, but would feel more comfortable if she was in a group. When asked if any of these crimes worried her, sophomore Maddie Wanzer said, “Not at all.”

By Natalie Camrud, Staff Writer ’13

Junior Jenna Blumenthal locks her car at the West Paces Shopping Center

Photo: Natalie Camrud

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