February 5, 2010

Unsolved Classics quad thefts frustrate faculty

Burglars bashed through some third-floor walls in Goodspeed Hall to steal a laptop and five computers last month. The January 25 incident comes after a string of thefts this winter in the Classics quad, prompting faculty to ask for increased security and to be alerted about crimes that occur where they work.

Robbers have targeted Goodspeed Hall, Cobb, and Gates-Blake in the past two months, according to UCPD spokesman Robert Mason; the music, film, and French departments, as well as the Center for the Study of Languages (CSL) were robbed. Every office on the fourth floor of Gates-Blake has been broken into, some twice, creative writing instructor Dan Raeburn said.

The UCPD does not know how many burglars are involved in the thefts, and no one has been taken into custody for the break-ins, Mason said. He called the localized rise in crime unusual and said that UCPD has upped its patrols in Goodspeed in response to the thefts.

The robberies, which have taken place since early December, have resulted in thousands of dollars of lost property. On December 7, a thief smashed a glass-fronted case at the CSL in Cobb using a billiards ball taken from the commuter lounge in the basement. A flat-screen TV was stolen.

The January 25 burglary followed a similar incident on the fourth floor of Goodspeed in December, Senior Director of Capital Planning in the Humanities Patricia Monaghan said.

According to CSL manager Michael Berger, the UCPD increased the number of patrolling security guards to the area following the December break-ins, in response to faculty requests. But those measures failed to prevent the January 25 incident, and the UCPD has since increased its patrol in Goodspeed between 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

The University also considered adding an after-hours card reader to restrict access to Cobb, or additional video surveillance. “There is going to be access control to these buildings, and extra security initiatives,” Mason said, but did not specify how the buildings would be controlled.

The Music Department also issued an e-mail to faculty, reminding staff to lock doors and protect valuables. “If people are going to break in, they’re going to break in. We want to make things as difficult [for them] as possible,” Monaghan said.

The constant threat of break-ins illustrates a lack of communication between the UCPD and faculty, Raeburn said. “The University never warned anybody [that the repeated theft] was going on. We didn’t even receive an e-mail,” he said. “A rash of massive break-ins across the quadrangle, we don’t hear anything.”

Raeburn said e-mail notifications by the University could have prevented or decreased the office theft, similar to the security alert system for violent crimes on campus, which he praised.

Raeburn, whose laptop was stolen December 15 when thieves pried open his dead-bolted door, said the University needs to upgrade its security system. “It’s very easy to pop those locks,” Raeburn said, adding that Gates-Blake is usually accessible at night due to propped-open fire escapes.