Though in spotlight, campus thefts are down

By Amy Ledig

Recent high-profile thefts on campus, including the theft of laptops from the library and break-ins at a Macalester cottage have members of the Macalester community concerned about a ­­­rise in campus crime. However, the numbers tell a different story.

Despite recent campus thefts, Macalester has actually experienced fewer thefts and burglaries so far this year compared to the same period last year. According to a tally of reported security incidents in the Security Department’s Open Log, there have been a total of 11 incidents of theft or robbery at Macalester between Sept. 1 and Nov. 13 of this year, as opposed to 17 in the period between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30 of 2005.

Incidents range from burglary of academic buildings to theft from dorms, Café Mac and bike racks. Most are on the minor side of the spectrum, but there have been two recent episodes that have raised concerns on campus.

The first was the theft of nine laptops from a locked cabinet in the library over the weekend in the middle of last month. Despite the police getting involved in the investigation, little progress has been made and Assistant Director of Facilities Management and Head of Security Terry Gorman isn’t optimistic that the story will have a happy ending.

“Police have been very discouraged in finding laptops,” Gorman said. “They don’t show up … we can’t say we’re going to find [the laptops].”

The second, more recent incident was a break-in at 53 Macalester St., a house owned by Macalester and available as an upper-classman housing option. The break-in happened between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Wed. Oct. 25. Matt Olson ’08 had his laptop, speakers, iPod and some change stolen. Ian Goldstein ’08 lost his laptop. The items were taken from the students’ desks.

The residents said that all of the doors were locked during the time of the break-in, and no signs of forced entry were found. They suspect that burglars could have entered through the window in Olson’s room, which does not have a screen.

Police found drills — stolen in a separate incident from a non-Macalester house — in the back of 53 Macalester St. after the break-in, according to resident Nisse Greenberg ’08.

“We left around eight … and then came back around 10 and this is when we found everything gone,” Greenberg said.

“Someone had dumped a bag of food on my bed and a door was left open that hadn’t been,” Olson said.

Gorman said that students need to be proactive in preventing crime. No significant revamping of security measures is in the works, Gorman said. Houses owned by the college and a significant portion of dorm rooms were re-keyed last year, but no such action has been taken at 53 Macalester St. since the break-in.

“Again, making sure in the residence halls that when you leave your room and when you are asleep, lock your doors. Don’t allow people to tailgate in,” Gorman said, suggesting steps student could take to protect their belongings and themselves. “Most of the crimes here are crimes of opportunity, where we—faculty, staff and students—leave an opportunity [for crime to happen].”

Posters have appeared around campus alerting staff and students to the library thefts and warning them to exercise caution. Gorman urged students to keep track of their items and mark them with information such as a driver’s license number that the police would be able to use to track the item if it were stolen.

Gorman said that security was more focused on trying to address general campus safety issues than addressing sporadic thefts.

“[Students] have to take some responsibility,” Gorman said. “Yes, I’m concerned that [thieves] take the stuff, but I’m really concerned about people’s safety.”

In spite of recent criminal activity, most students still feel safe. The residents of 53 Mac are not letting the theft faze them.

“We really make sure to lock the doors and we have new desk locks for the laptops,” Goldstein said.

Still, he said, the theft hadn’t changed how he felt about living in the cottage. Safety and security in the cottages is comparable to that on other parts of campus, Goldstein said.

“There’s not much we can do differently,” Greenberg said. “We’re cautious, we think differently, but there isn’t anything we can really do. This is one time of hundreds that people walked past our house, so the odds that this will happen again are very low.”