Cafe Mac sees rash of backpack theft

By Amy Ledig

Ever wonder what could go wrong when you leave your bag in the cubbies at the entrance of Café Mac, unattended, counting on the better nature of your fellow students? In recent week, several students have found that betting that their items would remain where they left them did not pay off.Phil Titcombe ’11, one of these students, left his backpack in the cubbies at the entrance to Café Mac and went to dinner last Thursday around seven p.m. He exited 35 minutes later, only to find that his backpack had vanished.

Thinking it has been mistakenly grabbed by a fellow student, he spent the evening checking if it had been returned the info desk in the Campus Center and keeping an eye on his checking account. Within a few hours, charges appeared at a Redbox, gas stations, and a fast food restaurant.

Titcombe cancelled the charges and reported the incident to campus security. When he went to get a new ID photo taken the next day and had to have the theft verified with security, he found out that his backpack had been recovered outside Kirk Hall with everything intact – including his keys and cell phone – with the exception of his check card, $20 and a jacket.

Terry Gorman, director of safety and security, said that there have been three incidents of theft from the Campus Center, all from inside the Café Mac dining area. And tracking down the culprits will not be easy.

“We just don’t have anything,” Gorman said. “There’s too many people coming and going. I’d be disappointed to think that another student took [them] but there no way to know.”

Security posted signs on campus alerting students that three bags had been taken since Sept. 17 and giving tips to avoid this from happening. Gorman stressed that students should leave unnecessary items in their dorm rooms rather than risk important things like passports, credit cards, social security cards and laptops being taken.

“There’s a lot of stuff that people don’t need to carry,” Gorman said.

Tracking down perpetrators of Campus Center theft has historically proven difficult. Gorman told of an incident several years ago in which someone came to the Campus Center with a backpack, left it in the cubbies on the lower level, and returned later to steal a different bag. The cycle was repeated several times, and the individual was only caught when Gorman, reviewing hours of videotapes, happened to notice that the same individual kept returning to do the swap.

For Café Mac, which sees such a high volume of traffic, Gorman said it would be more difficult to monitor. Theft is made easier by Café Mac policy, which requires bags to be left in cubbies at the entrances to the dining area, to prevent students from taking more food than they are allowed to leave with. Gorman said that he has discussed the issue with Bon Appétit, which runs Café Mac, and that no changes will be made.

Titcombe, however, said he will no longer be leaving his bag at the front.

“There’s an accountability issue. You don’t trust me not to steal food, I don’t trust you to watch my bag.