Break-In Causes Concerns Regarding Campus Safety
When Carolyn Sinclair-McCalla ’10 awoke a little after 5 a.m. on Tuesday, March 31, to the sound of someone opening the door to her room in Womanist House, she expected to see her roommate walk in. Instead, a man dressed in black entered and began rummaging around.
“I thought he had seen me,” she said. “I was on my elbows and I snuck myself back into my bed.”
The intruder, who likely entered the house through an unlocked window, had left the house by the time Public Safety (PSafe) reached the scene in response to the call that Sinclair-McCalla, her roommate, and their house manager had made.
Because most of the rooms in the house were locked, the burglar stole only a laptop from Sinclair-McCalla’s room; at the time, her room did not have a lockable door. While the door has now been boarded up and Residential Life (ResLife) has provided the roommates with the keys to another entrance to the room, Sinclair-McCalla feels that the entire robbery could have been prevented by fixing the broken door at the beginning of the year.
“ResLife needs to get their act together,” she said. “A lot of people would say [Womanist House] is in a bad neighborhood and it doesn’t take a long time for people to figure out this is a house full of women. ResLife can’t treat all homes equally.”
Womanist House is located at 170 College Street, considered on the edge of campus. Dave Meyer, Director of Public Safety, says that burglaries of houses often occur on the periphery of campus.
“We are consistent in our treatment of all Program Houses,” said ResLife Area Coordinator Dawn Brown in an e-mail to The Argus. “We do not treat any house differently due to their house name or demographic makeup of the house. We encourage all students to report any facility issues by submitting a work order. If there is an immediate safety issue, then that can be reported to Public Safety 24 hours a day.”
The unique housing options that the University provides to students is often one of its most appealing characteristics. However, Meyer pointed out that because many of the senior woodframes and program houses are relatively old, it is important for those students living in them to check that all locks work.
“Facilities staff are on campus seven days a week to respond to urgent maintenance needs including doors and windows that are not locking,” said Associate Vice President for Facilities Joyce Topshe in an e-mail to The Argus. “These items should be fixed the same day and are treated as urgent.”
In addition to her concerns with ResLife’s policies regarding program houses, Sinclair-McCalla was confused by the seemingly delayed response of PSafe to the robbery, both in the time it took them to arrive on the scene and the several minutes between the time they arrived and the time they entered the house.
“We stayed on the line with the victim until we got there,” said Meyer. “During that time units were being dispatched and we were gathering additional information. If there is an intruder possibly in the house, we want to keep them on the line.”
“[In reference to] the several minute delay, we were waiting for the arrival of Middletown Police, which is the protocol for multiple agencies going in together,” Meyer added.
Overall, Sincliar-McCalla is satisfied with the response of PSafe and the investigation following the burglary.
“Public Safety really did a good job,” she said. “Their heart is in the right place.”
After PSafe and ResLife sent an e-mail to the student body about burglaries on campus, they received several reports of a suspicious person lurking around houses.
“We believe we have arrested [the suspicious person],” said Meyer. “We’re not sure it’s the same person [who broke into Womanist House]. We’re not sure if it’s one person doing everything or if we’ve got everybody.”
In order to prevent burglaries in houses and dorms, Public Safety suggests that students follow the advice in the all-campus e-mail from PSafe and ResLife—lock all doors and windows, keep security screens closed and locked, and do not leave keys in the door.