Starting Monday, Freeman Athletic Center began reinforcing a long overlooked security policy requiring that students and faculty present their WesIDs at the main entrance of the facility. The renewed implementation of the policy follows two thefts on Oct. 26 and Nov. 6 that resulted in the loss of six iPhones and iPods.
“We all put our bags against the wall by the water fountain, and we had noticed in the middle of the workout a few guys came in who hovered around the area and left,” said Nicole Softness ’14, a member of the women’s tennis team. “After practice we noticed our phones were gone, including two iPhones and an iTouch.”
Softness lost her iPhone in late October during a workout session with head wrestling coach Drew Black, which members of women’s tennis, lacrosse, and basketball were taking part in that day. According to her, one girl was able to recall the clothing of the boys who came in during the workout and was asked by Middletown Police to identify them in a line-up.
Director of Public Safety (PSafe) Dave Meyer said that one non-student was identified but he was not found in possession of any of the missing items. PSafe will be working with Middletown Police to see if any items turn up after the drug sweep in Middletown’s North End which occurred last Thursday and ended in the arrests of eight individuals.
“There’s often a connection between the things stolen here and drugs,” Meyer said. “It’s not necessarily the people who stole the items that were arrested, but sometimes they can exchange them for drugs. Items have been recovered before through such major arrests, and I’d be interested to see if the inventory turns up any of the items.”
Softness, a Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) representative and member of the WSA Freeman Advisory Committee, said the thefts inspired her to request enhanced security measures in the facility.
“We had our first meeting a few weeks ago and I said that we needed to improve security,” she said. “I suggested that if we can’t put a scanner on the [main] door, we could have the people working at the desk monitoring who comes in and out. The truth is, if you don’t have a reason to be there, you really shouldn’t be there.”
The policy of checking the WesID of anyone entering Freeman has in fact been in place for some time, although student monitors already employed by Freeman have done little to enforce it in the past.
“All the doors to Freeman are sealed, and at the two entrances by the squash courts and by the main entrance people are supposed to present their cards or guest pass,” said Grace Zimmerman ’13, substitute member of the Freeman Advisory Committee. “Technically that’s already the way it works, but no one actually asks for those because there’s so much foot traffic.”
Director of Athletics and Chair of Physical Education John Biddiscombe said that although the enforcement of the policy should prevent similar incidents of theft in the future, students should remain cautious.
“It certainly will help deter unauthorized persons from entering the facility,” he said. “However, the most important thing that students can do to prevent theft is to not leave their personal property unattended. Much of the theft has been at the same location in the Bacon Field House, and the items were left unattended.”
According to Zimmerman, additional security measures may be implemented later, although economic constraints currently prevent this.
“Basically they’re just looking for other ways to make sure stuff like this doesn’t happen again,” she said. “The enforcement of this policy is just one of the conclusions. They actually had security officers several years ago, but doing that again all depends on the budget.”
Freeman administrative staff have also considered placing security cameras around the facility, but these were deemed too expensive at the moment, said Softness. According to Biddiscombe, public events that are held at the Center also make it difficult to control access.
In the meantime, Softness expressed hope that the enforcement of the ID policy will help to heighten awareness about security at the facility.
“It was supposed to be happening all along, but the whole campus got lenient,” she said. “It’s not a new thing, but we need to be more careful not to do things like hold open the door for someone you don’t know. When you’re in the workout room, you assume everyone there goes to Wesleyan, and you leave your stuff hanging around, which can be really dangerous.”