A contracted library employee was arrested on felony theft charges on Tuesday afternoon on the first floor of the Regenstein Library.
Third-year Shantanu Jha returned from grabbing a book on the third floor to see a man holding a black briefcase. As the man took off toward the staircase, Jha realized the bag was his, with his laptop inside.
“I saw him run down the stairs carrying my bag, and I decided to chase after,” Jha said. Joined by fourth-year and Maroon Photo Editor Darren Leow, he followed the thief from the third floor down to the A-Level.
First-year Jon Catlin watched as the chase broke into the A-Level, but said that few people reacted as the man sprinted toward a corridor located around the corner of the A-Level in an attempt to escape through a loading dock that exits onto 56th Street.
“I didn’t even realize what was going on. No one reacted. I wasn’t sure if it was a game,” Catlin said. “I definitely did not think it was a crime.”
After finding the door locked, the man threw the bag at Jha and pushed his way back toward the staircase by the bookstacks, where he attempted to escape through the first floor. There, the man was stopped by a group of students outside the glass gates.
Fourth-year Ricky Zacharias said he was prompted to help when he heard someone shouting, “Stop him.”
“I immediately turned and looked and by the time I looked, a guy was running across the first level toward the exit. Immediately, someone just stood in front of the two glass panels,” Zacharias said. “I ran over very quickly. It appeared that he was being confined by two guys. However, after that moment, he tried to escape. I ran through to the other side and joined them.”
The UCPD Pro-Active Crime Team (PACT) responded to a student call and arrested the cornered 23-year-old male. PACT has been used to give extra attention to high-crime areas on campus for a little over a year, according to UCPD Chief Marlon Lynch.
The suspect was hired by a University contractor, moving firm William B. Meyer, Inc., that has been transferring books to the Mansueto Library since July 1, according to University spokesperson Steve Kloehn. The man had undergone a requisite background check before beginning work at the library, Kloehn said, and is now no longer working for the University.
“Any time there’s an incident like this it causes the University to look again at how it structures work with outside vendors in order to make sure that we’re making this as safe a community as possible,” Kloehn said.
The Reg is one of the high-crime areas on campus, according to Lynch, and has been for a number of years. There have been three laptop thefts from the Reg so far this year, though there were none during the same time frame last year, according to UCPD Incident Reports.
Lynch said that the suspect may also be implicated in previous thefts, but UCPD spokesperson Bob Mason noted that there is a chance they will not be able to find the stolen property from other crimes.
“They’ll look at all thefts and see if he has the property,” Mason said. “As you can imagine, undoubtedly, [the suspects are] selling them someplace.”
Lynch added that there are now security officers, similar to those that patrol the Midway and the Booth School, stationed in the Reg. These security workers report to UCPD but are not police officers.
Zacharias said the crime took him by surprise, since he usually feels safe in the library. “[It’s] really surprising because I definitely leave my things out all day long because you don’t expect anyone to be there who isn’t studious,” he said. “It’s frustrating to be worried.”