Toward the end of October, a man entered the Link and asked a student if he could borrow her cell phone. She said yes and gave him the phone, and he then walked out of the Link, still talking on her phone. Over Fall Break, someone entered the men’s team locker room in the Leonard Center and stole belongings from lockers. A few weeks ago, unidentified suspects attempted to break into the Highlander store, but were unsuccessful.
Throughout the past few months, the Macalester campus has experienced a few high-profile thefts that have raised attention to issues of safety and security on campus. However, compared to this time last year, reported theft on campus has decreased slightly. Last year, 42 incidents of theft were reported on campus through the end of November, while this year only 31 have been reported to date.
According to Director of Safety and Security Terry Gorman, the overall decline in reported theft on campus was not a result of any specific change in practices or school policies, but rather, people continuing to be vigilant and responsible for their belongings.
“We’re always concerned; we remind people to keep track of their stuff,” Gorman said.
Since the beginning of the school year, a dozen reported thefts have taken place on campus. Four bikes were stolen from racks while three thefts took place inside the library, one in the link, two in the Leonard Center, one in Weyerhaeuser and one in Carnegie.
Eleven bike thefts were reported to campus sec in 2012, compared to only seven this year. Over the summer, Macalester security and the St. Paul Police Department apprehended a bike thief on campus in the process of stealing a bike.
Gorman said schools close to Macalester have had an increase in car break-ins, but no such increase has occurred at Macalester yet.
Library strikes balance between security and openness
The number of library thefts has held fairly steady; to date, three were reported this semester, compared to none in the spring and two last fall.
According to Associate Library Director Angi Faiks, the majority, if not all, of thefts in the library this year have been cellphones and smaller electronics — very few, if any, laptops have been stolen from the library this year.
Faiks said the key to ensuring a safe library, but not one that feels like it is under constant surveillance, is to strike a balance between openness and security.
“Thefts in the library have been something that have been very worrisome to us,” Faiks said, “and something we think about in the library. We are open to the public, and we are proud of that — libraries are known for openness. But by doing that, inherently, you open yourself up to some risk.”
The library has implemented many preventive measures to allow students to lower their risk of theft, such as laptop lockers and security cables, which can be checked out from the circulation desk.
Most thefts in the library, as well as other places on campus, take place as a result of students leaving their stuff unattended and walking away. By giving them the tools to secure their belongings, they should be able to reduce theft that takes place.
In addition, the expanded circulation desk provides a head-on direct view of the library entrance, which will create a much more self-policing space and allow workers there to identify everyone that comes and goes out of the building.
“Before, when we were tucked around the corner, it was almost impossible to do that visually,” said Faiks.
Most thefts on the library take place on higher floors, since there is less visibility and foot traffic. However, the storage lockers and security cables can only be accessed on the first floors. Faiks said the library is open to moving or expanding them in response to student input.
Last fall, the library initiated an ID-checking process during exams where anyone who entered the library would either have to show an ID or sign in. That procedure was instituted in response to heightened concerns about theft during such a high-traffic season, and it was used again during exams last spring because of its success. No thefts happened when the check-in was in place.
However, it will not be used permanently unless demanded by students. According to Faiks, it is “labor-intensive, time-intensive, and not really what we want to have to do.”
Leonard Center attempts to dissuade theft
Reported thefts in the Leonard Center have remained fairly low but increased slightly over the course of the last year. Seven thefts were reported this year in the Leonard Center, in addition to two more in the parking lot, compared to two last year inside the Leonard Center and three in the parking lot.
Assistant Athletic Director Ron Osterman said that theft in the Leonard Center occurs because traffic in the building is higher than what most people perceive it to be, especially when games and other events take place in the building.
Restrooms can only be accessed through the locker rooms, which makes it difficult to secure the locker rooms, where most thefts occur, to a greater level than they currently are.
Over Fall Break, an incident happened in the mens’ team locker room, where someone entered, rummaged through lockers and took unsecured belongings.
According to Mike Waltman ‘15, who runs cross country and whose credit card was compromised in the entrance, the soccer team was hit especially hard by the theft.
The team locker rooms are secured by a keypad entry.
“It’s a rare occurrence,” Waltman said. “When it does [happen], all it takes is one person to realize that not everyone is as friendly as we are.”
The Leonard Center has been providing ways for visitors to secure their belongings so they are not out in the open while they work out. Recently, they installed digitally locking cubbies in the Deno Fitness Center with codes that reset after each use and made available steel-barred day locks which can be checked out for single-day use.
“People are not just leaving valuables anywhere in the building,” Osterman said. “We’re providing them opportunities to secure them.”
Only those with card access are allowed to enter the Leonard Center. If someone’s card is missing or invalid, they must sign in at the front desk, and are escorted to where they have to go by one of the student workers, according to Osterman.
“They’ve been buckling down on the workers to make sure no one just walks in unaccounted for,” said Abby Purfeerst ’16, who works at the Leonard Center’s front desk.
“[The student workers] are a presence,” Osterman said. “They let people know we are monitoring access and the entrance of the facility. If you’re going to do something mischievous, you don’t want to be seen. We’re creating the idea that you’re being seen.”
No theft in Campus Center this semester
No reported thefts have taken place in the Campus Center this semester, and only three took place earlier last semester and over the summer. This is a decline from last year, when seven thefts took place over the course of the academic year.
Since the Loch opened up, the building manager’s desk has been moved to provide a greater sight line of the campus center’s lower level. According to Campus Center Director Cindy Harstaad, building managers had “little to no visibility” when they worked in the old student lounge.
In addition, Harstaad believes building managers staffed on the second floor have been performing rounds of the area more consistently, which she hopes contributed to the decline in theft.