Over the past three weeks, the College has been experiencing several thefts, particularly in unlocked rooms. Everything from wallets, coats and backpacks to cell phones, keys and iPads have been reported. Most notably, there have been five reports of stolen laptop computers.
The laptop thefts all occurred in either common areas or unlocked rooms. Campus Police released a statement informing the College community about these thefts and encouraging them to protect their belongings.
“These are obviously thefts of opportunity,” the release said. “The opportunity is created when you leave your possessions unattended in a non-secure location, regardless of how briefly.”
In the most recent thefts, students have been able to give descriptions of the suspect and the vehicle he drove. According to Ed Zaniewski, the Deputy Chief of Campus Police, they are working with other police departments in the area where similar thefts occurred.
“In the most recent thefts, witnesses report seeing a suspect who is described as a slightly older than college age white male, six feet tall with sandy blonde hair, clean-shaven and last seen wearing a light blue and white checkered button-down shirt and khaki pants,” the release said. “He was carrying a black backpack.”
Hannah Greenwald ’14 is one of the students whose laptop was stolen from her unlocked room in James Dormitory. When she returned to her room after taking a shower, she realized that her laptop and her roommate’s were gone.
“I was pissed off and frustrated, both with myself for not having locked my door and obviously with the thief,” Greenwald said.
After noticing the thefts, she called campus police who she said have “been extremely helpful throughout the entire process.” Campus Police had a meeting for residents of James and Stearns Dormitories informing them of the suspect’s description and giving them advice as to how to stay safe.
Campus Police recently proved instrumental in the recovery of an iPad. Chris Friend ’14, also a resident of James, had his laptop and his iPad stolen from his unlocked room.
“I still can’t believe the lengths to which Campus Police went to recover my stolen items,” Friend said.
A few days later, he heard back from Campus Police. Using an Apple application, officers were able to track the iPad to an apartment complex in Springfield, Mass. Two officers drove to the location and wrote down the plate numbers of every car parked in the complex. After waiting for a few hours, the tracking system showed that the iPad had been moved to location in Holyoke, Mass.
Officers went to the location that the system indicated where they found a car that had also been in the apartment complex. They waited for several hours until the driver returned to the vehicle and began driving. As he drove, officers noted that the tracking system was following the same route as the car. They contacted Holyoke Police and had the car stopped. The driver was arrested for possessing the stolen iPad.
To prevent more thefts from happening, Zaniewski advices students to participate in the laptop registration program that Campus Police offers to facilitate the recovery of the thefts should they happen. He also encourages students to not leave their possessions unattended in unlocked rooms or common areas or allow “unfamiliar people to ‘tail-gate’” into the dormitory. Also, after having seen the tracking system work on Friend’s iPad, he encourages students to use tracking software on their possessions.
Although Campus Police is working towards finding the other stolen things, the paranoia on campus continues.
“My roommate and I keep our door locked at all times, and I keep thinking I see shady characters around campus only to realize that they’re actually just students,” Greenwald said.
“Mostly it was just a wake-up call: even though 90% of the time you can leave your door unlocked and your laptop sitting out and nobody will bother with it, there is always a chance that something bad will happen.”
Campus Police encourages the community to contact them about any suspicious person or activity immediately at (413) 542-2111. Anyone with information specifically regarding the thefts should contact the police at (413) 542-2291.