Theft spree in dorms


Students in Turck and Doty reported stolen belongings last weekend. Photo by Smith Mayse ‘22.

Margaret Moran, News Editor

On Sunday, Public Safety sent an email to students about several thefts in Doty and Turck Halls that occurred on Saturday night between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. The notification read that someone from outside the Macalester community stole an access card and entered the residence halls.

“It was reported that the subject… was seen walking through Doty and Turck and entered several occupied student rooms and immediately left,” the email read. “The subject is described by video recording and witnesses as a black male, 5’10” tall, thin build, late teens to early 20s, wearing a black winter jacket, black athletic pants, and white athletic shoes.”

15 students reported stolen items or seeing the suspect enter their dorm rooms. In an email to The Mac Weekly, Director of Public Safety Jim Kurtz wrote there were “no reports of any threats or physical assaults.”

Joe Petersdorf ’23 of Turck 2 had left his room to take a shower when the suspect entered his room and stole his wallet and headphones.

“For the first hour, I was like, ‘Oh, my room’s a mess, they fell somewhere,’” Petersdorf said. “But I couldn’t find them and so I tore my room apart and I’m like, ‘That’s not right, I’m not that disorganized.’”

Petersdorf called Public Safety the next morning and then filed a report with the St. Paul police.

The thief went to Speedway and Target to purchase around $500 worth of gift cards with Petersdorf’s debit card. Petersdorf doesn’t think he will be getting back his wallet or his headphones.

He said in the future, he will lock his door more.

“I was in the shower when it happened,” Petersdorf said. “You’re back in five to ten minutes, what’s the point of locking your door? But I will.”

Lucy Grochulska ’23 of Turck 2 was also a victim of theft; she came back from a concert Saturday night to find that her wallet and AirPods had disappeared. She has started locking her door at all times, even when she is in the room.

Grochulska said that despite the incident, she still generally feels safe on campus.

“Typically, I do feel very safe on campus and although this was a scary experience, I also take responsibility for not locking my door and I understand that this could have been avoided,” Grochulska wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “I don’t really feel any less safe on campus than I did before. Mostly, this has really made me think about the privilege I have had here, feeling comfortable enough to leave for hours with my room unlocked.”

Kurtz wrote that Public Safety will increase education efforts about crime prevention.

“We’re going to try to educate students about dorm safety and personal safety,” Kurtz wrote. “Two months ago we had a situation where someone came up to a dorm building and asked some students, ‘Hey can I use your bathroom?’ and went up the stairs and used the bathroom and then walked the hallways.”

Kurtz said he hopes students will be more cautious before allowing people they don’t recognize into the residence halls.

“Would you let someone come right in your house and use your bathroom?” Kurtz asked. “There’s an element of complacency when it comes to safety in the dorms. We need to make sure that students use good safety practices. We’re currently working on a plan with Residential Life where we would attend floor meetings and talk to students about dorm and personal safety.”

Assistant Dean for Residential Life Coco Du agrees.

“All of the thefts occurred due to unlocked dorm rooms,” Du said. “That’s unfortunate, even though we remind students to lock their doors at all times.”

On Wednesday morning, a similar theft occurred in Old Main.

“Today there was an issue where a person went into an office in Old Main and stole a wallet,” Kurtz wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “By the time the staff member figured out the wallet was taken, too much time had gone by and the suspect was gone. We were probably over there in three and a half minutes from the time we got the call.”

The suspect was described as a white female in her late 30’s or early 40’s, wearing a tan coat and a hat. A staff member reported a similar individual in Weyerhaeuser at 10:30 a.m.

“The good news in the Weyerhaeuser case, was that someone realized something was wrong and called us right away,” Kurtz wrote. “Whereas the incident over at Old Main, the suspect was able to distract the staff member long enough to steal the wallet from their office.”

In light of both of these incidents, Kurtz believes that increased patrol presence is not the best strategy. Instead, he hopes that more members of the Macalester community will educate themselves on crime prevention.

“Some of the incidents that happen on campus are preventable, and by that I mean using crime prevention tactics may have prevented these incidents from happening,” Kurtz wrote.

He wrote that crime can even be attributed to an overwhelming sense of trust for other people on campus.

“I don’t want to say that we’re completely complacent, but I think we’re too friendly at times, or maybe we’re worried about offending somebody, and let our guard down,” he continued. “Crime happens everywhere, and it can happen here too.”