May 6, 2014

Alleged Snell-Hitchcock thief apprehended

The University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) has apprehended the man who was allegedly responsible for the thefts and unlawful entry into Snell-Hitchcock and Max Palevsky Residential Commons during winter quarter. The UCPD did not release his name.

The man gained access to Snell-Hitchcock on two different occasions, on January 8 and February 11. During the first instance, he stole four laptops from residents of Hitchcock House.

In the second incident, Snell-Hitchcock’s Resident Master Penny Rothfield was sleeping on her couch when she woke up to see the man standing in her living room, according to an e-mail sent to residents by Shaun Crisler, the community assistant director of College Housing. The man said he was there for a “study group” and left without incident when Rothfield told him to leave.

The offender has also been accused of an unlawful entry to Max Palevsky Residential Commons on a separate occasion over winter break, although no theft was recorded by the UCPD.

Described as a black male in his mid-20s with a mustache and goatee, carrying a black North Face backpack, the man stood in front of entrances to residence halls and waited for residents to enter using their ID cards. He then followed them inside the buildings and walked the halls searching for unlocked or unsecured rooms, according to an e-mail sent to residents of Max Palevsky and Snell-Hitchcock dormitories.

The thief gained access to Snell-Hitchcock through the exterior Snell door, the entrance into Snell-Hitchcock that lacks a front desk. The door has since been permanently locked and remains inaccessible to students.

Police ultimately apprehended the suspect through a tip from a Snell-Hitchcock resident.

“A few weeks ago, a student noticed suspicious behavior as the person of interest was lurking around the door of Snell-Hitchcock, and called UCPD,” UCPD Chief Marlon Lynch said in a statement. “The UCPD canvassed the area and found him nearby. A foot pursuit ensued and he got away. A short time later he was apprehended and positively identified through the investigative process, which included identifying him through security camera footage.”

After these thefts, first-year Snell House resident Griffin Cox said that news of the arrest brought him relief.

“But I still think it won’t change much, since the incident has left students putting guests of other Snell-Hitchcock residents under a lot more scrutiny,” he said.

In addition to locking the door to Snell House, College Housing has recently implemented new safety mechanisms and alarms on other Snell-Hitchcock doors.

“After the arrest, people are beginning to question whether or not the Snell door should continue to stay locked to residents,” said Cox. “However, it doesn’t seem like there would be a better solution, since implementing a front desk for security would be expensive.”

Housing has also held multiple community meetings with students in order to discuss exercising safety precautions around campus.

“The safety of the students and other residents in College Housing is a top priority for all of us,” Associate Director for Community Life Nicole D. Eggleston said in an e-mail. “Although there has been an arrest, we remind everyone to continue to secure their room doors and personal belongings, and to continue to be alert and aware of their surroundings at all times.”