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Student robbed by golf cart thief

Most USF golf cart thieves steal for a quick and exciting joy ride to get from point A to point B.

But on Nov. 15, one stolen cart became an accessory to an additional crime when USF junior Nicole Cook was robbed in a drive-by purse snatching.

“I had gotten out of class a little bit early,” Cook said. “I was heading to my car and heard the golf cart approaching me. Next thing I know, there was a tug on my arm, and a few seconds later I realized my purse was gone.”

Cook said she dropped her backpack and chased after the suspect while yelling for help outside the chemistry building around 7 p.m.

According to Cook, the closest she came to the assailant was when she grabbed the back of the golf cart. At that point, the suspect abandoned the cart and proceeded to run on foot to a car, where he jumped into the passenger side and escaped.

“It must have been planned out, because he got in the golf cart, had the car waiting for him and everything,” Cook said. “I expected him to be a scumbag, but he was a very clean-cut kid.”

The suspect is a 5-foot-10, 165-pound white male with short blonde hair approximately 18-25 years of age. The getaway car was reported as a blue or white Toyota Corolla. University Police is still in the process of investigating the case.

According to Cook, the suspect left behind a sandal, and fingerprints were taken from the golf cart by UP.

Cook said she notified the credit bureau of the theft and put a flag on her files in order to protect her credit.

“Fortunately, there was no money in the purse,” Cook said. “All he got was an expensive purse.”

Cook is offering a $100 reward to anyone who can supply necessary information that helps lead to the arrest of the thief. Golf cart theft is considered a felony and could carry fines and imprisonment in excess of one year. For the purse snatching, the guilty party could face charges in excess of $5,000 and imprisonment not exceeding five years.

“If that was a rapist asking a girl if she needed a ride to her car, who knows what would have happened?” Cook said.

According to UP Capt. J.D Withrow, officers are instructed to stop golf carts after 6 p.m. to check whether valid USF personnel are operating them.

But Withrow acknowledged that most golf carts are located within the heart of campus, and the lack of streets makes it difficult for officers to observe cart theft.

In 2004, 50 motor vehicle thefts were reported at USF. Golf carts comprised 31 of the recorded thefts. This year, 23 out of 47 vehicle thefts reported so far have been golf carts.

“Most of the carts are recovered,” Withrow said. “They’re either from joyriding or a crime of convenience where a person will see a golf cart unattended and drive it to another side of campus, dump it and continue on.

“For (USF), it’s very bizarre. I don’t recall in my 19 years any purse snatchings perpetrated by someone in a speeding golf cart.”