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The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Harvey Wilhelm
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Students urge the College to address theft on campus

Multiple students who left their belongings outside of the Dining Hall have had their items stolen off the shelves. Photo by Sarah Ruiz.

This school year, Grinnellians seem to be losing items at a higher rate than usual, with most theft taking place in the cubbies and shelving outside of the Dining Hall. Students who have been victims of the recent theft have formed online communities such as the Facebook group “My stuff got stolen at Grinnell,” which as of May 3, 2018, has 116 members.

In an email interview with The S&B, Director of Campus Safety James Shropshire did not point to a particular factor that might be prompting recent thefts. Shropshire instead implied that students are always more susceptible to theft in public spaces such as student centers and libraries.

“Theft is often described as a crime of opportunity,” Shropshire wrote. “Often this opportunity manifests itself in a situation where someone may leave a valuable, like a laptop, unattended while using the restroom. Most thefts occur on college campuses in spaces that are utilized as a shared space and often open to the public.”

Shropshire also noted that campus safety currently has no suspects for recent thefts on campus.

“If anyone might have any information regarding these recent thefts, I would encourage them to provide that information to the Grinnell Police Department or the Department of Campus Safety,” he said.

Students who have had items stolen from the area outside the Dining Hall are confused as to why the thefts keep happening, and feel as though the College hasn’t done enough in the wake of the reported events.

Taylor Burton ’18, like many students in the “My stuff got stolen at Grinnell” Facebook group, had her entire backpack stolen from the JRC while she worked her Dining Hall shift on Feb. 1. She could not go home to drop off her bag because she had to hurry from her other campus job as a writing mentor straight to the Dining Hall.

“I had my laptop, my winter boots, the clothing I was wearing before I changed for work, a bracelet my boyfriend got me from Scotland,” Burton said. “If I were to count up how much it [cost], it was over $1,500 at the price of purchase worth of items.”

“Since my freshman year I used to leave my stuff [outside the Dining Hall] and I never thought anyone would steal it,” Burton said. “I’ve since been able to get a new laptop because people helped me out, but if I have my laptop in my backpack I don’t store it there anymore. If I have my backpack, I’ll put it by the front service desk, because I trust those people to watch it.”

The Dining Hall rules create a serious dilemma: students aren’t allowed to bring bags and coats into the Dining Hall, but instead must leave their items out in the open before going in to eat. On the Friday before spring break, Megan Christel ’20 had her laptop stolen from her backpack while she went to lunch for just 20 minutes.

“I grabbed my bag [after lunch], and I realized it was a little bit lighter,” Christel said. “I came to the grill, sat down and I looked in [my bag] and realized ‘Oh shit, it isn’t there.’ I went straight into panic mode and called security and student affairs.”

Christel expressed frustration with how security and student affairs handled her report, and other students have taken action to make sure that the College hears their voices.

In the top post in the “My stuff got stolen” Facebook group, the group’s administrator Zeyu Chen ’21 urges students to report what they’ve lost, and says that he “will report missing items monthly to the school.”

Christel also questioned campus safety’s infrastructural capacity to solve any thefts in the JRC.

“I’m sure everyone’s doing as much as they can. But security never called me back. They were like ‘We probably won’t get much off the tapes. The angle isn’t right and they’re kind of blurry.’ If you’re admitting that these security cameras do nothing, then how are you helping students?”

Regarding the cameras, Shropshire wrote that campus safety is working with Information and Technology Services (ITS) to get more cameras installed, but that those requests are “pending.”

“The current array of cameras on campus are appropriately supported by ITS via dedicated server space,” Shropshire wrote. “One of the pending requests is for additional camera coverage in the JRC. The addition of these proposed cameras will require allocation of more dedicated server space to support operations.”

The cubbies and shelves outside the Dining Hall currently host hundreds of backpacks and jackets every day, but Shropshire encourages students to leave valuables at home before entering the Dining Hall.

“I would encourage students to store valuables in a safe space in their apartment or residence hall room. One should only carry items that are necessary for their day to day activities on campus. I would also strongly encourage people to not leave valuables unattended in common spaces, even for a few minutes,” Shropshire wrote.

Shropshire emphasized that victims of theft should notify campus safety, and if they wish, the Grinnell Police Department, for further assistance.

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