On the night of Saturday, Sept. 1, a senior house located on Pine Street was broken into. Director of Public Safety Scott Rohde notified students of the incident Sunday morning via campus-wide email.
The email reported that the thief or thieves entered the house between 10:00 p.m. Saturday night and 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning through a first-floor window. Personal items, such as an iPad and laptop, were stolen.
Rachel Kantor ’19, a resident of the house where the break-in occurred, reported the incident at 3:20 a.m. when she returned from seeing friends to find items missing from her room and the screen on the first-floor window cut open. She immediately called Public Safety, and an officer was at her house soon after. The officer had called the Middletown Police Department, but a Middletown Police officer did not arrive at the house for almost an hour. It was past 4 a.m. when the officer finally arrived.
“[The Middletown Police officer] said it was probably a junkie looking to pawn items to score more drugs,” Kantor wrote in an email to the Argus. “The officer also informed me that [the crime scene] wasn’t worth fingerprinting because ‘even the dumbest criminals know to wear gloves.’”
Kantor told this to Interim Captain of Public Safety Paul Verrillo, and he strongly disagreed, saying that the officer should have at least fingerprinted the area around the point of entry. Middletown Police are continuing to investigate the break-in and are hoping that Kantor’s belongings will turn up in a pawn shop.
In an email to the Argus, Rohde wrote that this is the first break-in to occur this year. In the past, burglaries have occurred during the first few weeks of the year as students are settling in to their new residences. In the fall of 2016, five break-ins occurred during the first week back at school, affecting both senior houses and program houses.
Rohde wrote that Public Safety officers made sure no one was in the house on Sunday morning before handing off the investigation to the Middletown Police Department.
Throughout the weekend, Public Safety officers alerted students in other wood frame houses of the incident and checked to make sure their houses were secured. Checks revealed a number of unsecured houses. Rohde wrote that thieves typically enter through open, partially open, or closed and unlocked door, but first-floor windows that seem unsecure are also sometimes targeted.
Kantor and her roommate remain shaken by the event, but Kantor spoke about how supportive CAPS has been in the past week and how she is starting to feel like herself again.
“It’s very violating knowing that someone has been in your house, uninvited, with weapons,” she wrote. “I am very grateful that we were not home; who knows what could have happened.”
Kantor commented on the fact that the administration speaks of how vulnerable the campus is to break-ins at the beginning of the year but does not take steps to actually prevent break-ins. She was told that only four Public Safety officers were working Saturday night but said that she did not see any officers patrolling less-populated areas. Instead of concentrating on the outskirts of the senior houses, where Kantor’s house is located, they focused their energy on Fountain Avenue, which is the most-populated area on campus on weekend nights. Kantor was also told that the four officers were busy responding to lockouts and noise complaints all night and had no time to patrol dimly-lit, less-populated areas.
“In my opinion, a better option would be to have [Public Safety] patrolling the outside of the neighborhoods, making sure no one from outside Wesleyan was going in to bother or take advantage of the students,” she wrote. “This way, if a party got out of hand or someone was out of control, our public safety officers would be close by so that we could call them for help.”
She was dismayed by the fact that officers were handing out points to people at parties rather than patrolling less-populated and dimly lit areas of campus that are vulnerable to more serious crimes. She wants to see the University install cameras in these high-risk areas but understands that students could object to being monitored in this way. In the past week, she has discussed the possibility of installing cameras with Public Safety officers and other students.
“This officer was clear about the fact that she and the other officers were in favor of cameras being installed,” she wrote. “When talking with other seniors, we all agreed that having cameras in the area would make us feel much safer, and that we would hope that our school would not use it to try to take advantage of us.”
Kantor expressed extreme satisfaction with her experience working with Public Safety this past week but thinks that there is a lack of communication between students and officers such that even if a majority of students would agree with installing cameras, Public Safety is not in tune with public opinion. She hopes conversations can occur in the future so that issues of public safety on which both students and Public Safety agree can be addressed.
Even though it has been quite a rocky start to Kantor’s senior year, she is optimistic about the year ahead and determined not to let this crime affect her last months on campus.
“I will not let the actions of one petty individual hold me back or ruin my senior year,” she wrote. “The good news is: the year can only improve from here! I’d also like to thank all my friends for all the love and support we’ve received this past week. It is the Wesleyan community I am surrounded by that has helped me feel safe once again.”
William Halliday can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org