On three different occasions in the past two weeks, an unknown number of intruders entered Cobb Hall and broke into Cobb Coffee Shop, taking more than $600 worth of candy and soda, as well as damaging facilities and property. Facilities managers have been working with UCPD, the Chicago Police Department, and the Dean's Office to address the situation.
The first incident occurred late on March 26. Building janitors notified the police when an emergency exit alarm went off. According to Kat Hill, a fourth-year in the College and manager of Cobb Coffee Shop, the intruder entered the building and broke through the door of the coffee shop. Police found the cash registers in pieces on the ground and candy strewn around the facilities.
A second break-in occurred on the following night, March 27. University of Chicago Police officers, who happened to be on patrol near the building, spotted a 14-year-old boy exiting Cobb carrying a large crate of candy. Police officers apprehended the boy and put him under arrest. Upon investigation, they learned that more vandalism and theft had been committed, and the UCPD suspects others were involved in the break-in.
The third incident occurred Saturday night, April 2. Police officers doing special rounds in Cobb discovered that the doors had once again been smashed open and more candy and soda had been stolen. When contacted on Monday, Rudy Nimocks, director of UCPD, was unaware of the third break-in. After consulting a police report, Nimocks said he thought it likely that the parties responsible for the most recent break-in were friends or acquaintances of the 14-year-old suspect.
In explaining how the intruder was able to gain access to the building, Nimocks said, "He may have just stayed inside the building until after it closed." Nimocks remained vague, however, on what has made Cobb susceptible to security breaches.
"I don't want to speculate to that," Nimocks said, and provided no specifics regarding any additional security measures for Cobb. "We have some ideas we're going to employ," he said.
According to Jen Kennedy, coordinator of student coffee shops on campus, extra security measures were taken after each occurrence. "However, obviously, they have not been enough," Kennedy said. "We are seriously considering replacing the doors altogether as that has been the point of entry each time."
Hill said that the Dean's Office is ultimately responsible for how to respond to the situation since the building belongs to the University. Hill said she has heard discussion of the possibility that an alarm system will be put in.
Hill felt satisfied with the response from police and University administrators. "The CPD has been more and more helpful," she said. "And we've been in regular contact with the Dean's Office."
The staff of Cobb Coffee shop is feeling the strain of the repeated break-ins. "The biggest problem has been dealing with the vandalism. We've had to fix the door multiple times. They damaged our cash registers, which we replaced, then they damaged the new ones. We've had our candy rack stolen three times," Hill said. "We're all pretty exhausted."
Interestingly, this is not the first time the Cobb Coffee Shop has been a target for theft. In the summer of 2003, there were two break-ins and an attempt within the space of a week.
Thus far, the break-ins have only occurred after hours. "It seems to be a weekend thing," said Hill. In the event that someone would attempt to break-in while people are present, Hill said that the coffee shop is equipped with an emergency response system. She said, "We press a button and it calls the police."
Kennedy emphasized that the coffee shop will try to minimize disruption to normal business. She said, "We need to continue to fortify the shop to protect it from further break-ins. We need to open our doors every Monday at 7:30 a.m. because we need to send a message to our customers. We are undeterred by these occurrences. We will continue to provide our food, our space, and our culture to the University community, and we hope that in turn, our customers appreciate that."