Since the start of the semester, Director of Public Safety Scott Rohde has reported five break-ins affecting residences on the University campus.
In a campus-wide email on Sept. 1, he informed the community of criminal activity on Lawn Ave. on the evening of Aug. 31. The following day, he followed up to alert the University that two more burglaries had been reported: one additional incident on Lawn Ave. and another in the 100 block of Church St., both during the late hours of the evening. In each of these instances, entry was through an unlocked window or door, and laptop computers were stolen.
Four days later, on Sept. 6, Rohde sent another campus-wide email alerting the campus that another University residence on the 100 block of Church was broken into at 3:20 a.m. The suspect broke in through an unsecured window and entered a student’s unlocked room, waking up the occupant and subsequently fleeing the scene. The suspect, who is believed to have acted alone, is described as a taller male wearing dark clothing and possessing a bag.
In addition to home invasions, several cars have also been broken into in recent days as students settle into their residences.
Public Safety and the Middletown Police Department have launched an ongoing investigation to locate the perpetrator.
“The steps involve looking at any camera footage that might yield people during that time frame that might fit that description in the area,” Rohde said. “That has not proved to give a lot of information, but we did recently look at a feed that might be helpful. We also have been deploying some of our staff in plainclothes on foot in some of the areas doing a lot more monitoring, and that observation has also led us to discover an area where we think a person might be hiding.”
Rode further noted the unprecedented spike in criminal activity on campus compared to this time last year.
“This large number of residences being entered is highly unusual,” Rohde said. “Last year…we had, in the first two weeks of school, a student who was robbed at knifepoint by Vines on Church…and other than that, we went weeks and weeks with no significant crime, so this is completely different.”
Current residents of The Bayit, the program house that was broken into on Sept. 6, spoke out regarding what had happened at their residence.
“We were initially notified by a [Public Safety] email telling us that there was a break in on the 100 block of Church Street, it was a couple hours later when our HM told us that it actually was the break-in,” an anonymous resident of The Bayit said. “We were told that the suspect entered from a window, but that’s all we know. At our house meeting we were talking about possibly having outside security cameras or contacts on the windows so we can know which windows are open.”
Anna Fox ’19, a resident of Open House, the program house that was broken into on Sept. 2, described the break-in at her house.
“I came home at like 3 a.m. and saw that my shades were down in my room, which was weird because I had remembered putting them up,” she said. “When I walked over to the windows, they were wide open. That’s when I realized that someone had gone through the window and nabbed my backpack and laptop, as well as like six dollars that were on my desk after a grocery run.”
Fox explained that she immediately called Public Safety, who quickly arrived to her house with the Middletown Police.
“They did a great job of making me feel safe and heard, which I really appreciated,” Fox said. “I don’t know why this keeps happening on such a large scale, though, and I don’t want it to keep happening to folks.”
Public Safety and Middletown Police are investigating these incidents, and the cases remain open and active. They believe it is the same perpetrator due to the consistent modus operandi and are looking for potential accomplices.
As the investigation progresses, Public Safety reminds students to be mindful of open windows and unlocked doors, since the culprit has gained access to campus residences by way of opportunity as opposed to forced entry. They also stress good communication among members of the same residence regarding potential visitors. The public safety line can be reached 24/7 at 860-685-3333 and the officers urge students to be extra alert and report any suspicious activity promptly.