A recent string of felony thefts have occurred at the Oviatt Library for which campus police have yet to apprehend or identify any of the suspects involved.
During the fourth week of the semester, between Feb. 12 and 13, a group of unidentified suspects were believed to be responsible for thefts in the library. Campus police are currently coordinating with the library administration to address the issue of safety and solve the problem.
“The campus is a public place and the library is a public place,” said special assistant to the chief of police, Christina Villalobos, who has been actively coordinating with the library administration. “Some people, career criminals, make a living off of hitting up places just like this, where they can come in contact with a lot of valuable property.”
According to Villalobos, the three suspects involved in the incidents are not students and purposely dress in a way that would allow library patrons to assume otherwise. Library surveillance was able to capture a few still images of the suspects, but campus police have not yet identified them.
In the images, made public by campus police in a notice released on Feb. 19, the suspects appear to be three black males between 5′ 10/11′ tall and between 20 to 25 years old. At the time, they were seen wearing white T-shirts, dark blue jeans, black tennis shoes and drawstring-type backpacks.
None of the occurrences at the library were incidents in which any one was harmed or came into direct contact with the suspects. They were crimes of opportunity in which the suspects took advantage of students who felt comfortable enough to leave their personal items unattended.
“The campus itself is generally a safe place,” said Villalobos. “When we get too safe we tend to put our guard down and we get a little bit more careless about where we leave our stuff.”
This is a commonality for many regulars at the library. People may need to answer an important call or use the restroom or even feel they need to take a nap. When this happens, many times, people forget to maintain their personal items.
“In the library, what people can do is not leave their property unattended, to not sleep in the library,” said Villalobos. “Even though it may seem like a big hassle to get all your stuff together to go outside and make a phone call for five minutes, take it with you, it only takes a couple of seconds for someone to take it.”
According to the daily campus crime log, the personal items that were stolen from students range from textbooks to backpacks to laptops. They were taken from different floors throughout the day.
The library administration, along with the campus police, has been coordinating to figure out the best way to get the message of safety and awareness out to students.
According to Marianne Afifi, associate dean of Oviatt Library, in order to spread awareness the library will be distributing fliers with details about ways in which students can take an offensive in the face of such circumstances. The library administration will also have posters displayed throughout the library that will advise students about being more careful with their belongings.
“I want students to come, I want students to be comfortable, I want them to feel it’s safe,” said Afifi. “But I also want them to be aware of their surroundings and not leave their stuff around.”
Freshman Edward Park, 23, said he feels the library is a safe but in light of the recent circumstances, it is important to be a little more aware of where to leave belongings.
“It feels pretty uncomfortable, I used to have my laptop just sitting out here, now I’m more cautious,” said Park. “It happens that quickly, even if you turn your back for a second.”
The university offers several programs to help protect students. Security Tracking of Office Property is one service that allows students, for a nominal fee, to register any property of value with campus police. Property such as laptops and iPods can be registered with STOP. If they are stolen, there is a very good chance that it will be returned.
“We offer a lot of programs and services but we need students to meet us half way and to take advantage of them,” said Villalobos.