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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Two student houses burgled on the same night, raising questions about safety for off-campus housing

In the early morning hours of Saturday, Jan. 26, two off-campus College student houses experienced very similar break-ins. Though no one was physically hurt, the residents of both houses were left feeling shaken at the incursion of a stranger into their homes.

At 1018 East St., Nolan Boggess ’19 awoke around 3:50 a.m.. to a presence in his room. After realizing there was an intruder in the house, Boggess said “hello,” and the stranger quickly fled.

Boggess immediately called the Grinnell Police Department, who investigated in and around the house. The police found that the stranger had broken a window to climb into the home.

According to Boggess, the police stayed until they received another report of a break-in down the street. A stone’s throw away at 1030 East St., Judith Tong ’20, Anh Thu Pham ’19, and a third friend were asleep in the basement of their off-campus home.

Tong awoke around 4:30 a.m. to a presence in the room, but at first was unsure of what was happening. She shined her phone screen around the area and spotted an individual laying down in between her and Pham’s beds.

Like Boggess, Tong called out “hello” to the stranger, who stirred for a moment and eventually left the home. The fact the individual did not acknowledge the greeting — a hello or otherwise — made Tong concerned.

Tong and the other residents of her home searched every room in the house, but could not find the intruder. All the doors in the upstairs room of the house were open, which Tong suspects was the individual checking if the home was occupied.

The residents called Campus Safety, who in turn called the police. Back at 1018, the police received a report of a second break-in on East Street and went to 1030, where they searched the home and the perimeter for any signs of the intruder. The police did not pinpoint a clear means of entry into 1030, though Tong mentioned they saw marks at the back door which could indicate a pry bar was used to jimmy open the back door.

“Based on the time frame and proximity of these two incidents, coupled with the actions of the offender, at this point we believe the same person is responsible for both incidents,” wrote Grinnell Chief of Police Dennis Reilly in and email to The S&B.

After both houses were investigated, the GPD returned to discuss safety issues at the residences.

According to Boggess, “[The police] came back and just told us to ensure we locked our doors and windows at night … and that they would update us with any info. We followed up and it seems like they’re taking the case seriously since this sort of stuff doesn’t happen in Grinnell too much.”

According to Tong, the police mentioned that the perpetrator was likely a homeless individual seeking shelter from the cold. Temperatures that weekend reached below -5 degrees Fahrenheit, which causes frostbite with prolonged exposure.

Esther Hwang ’19, also a resident of 1018 East Street, noted the seeming absence of resources for the homeless in and around Grinnell in the aftermath of the break-in.

“After we heard it was a homeless person, we would have conversations about where people go during the polar vortex … there are no homeless shelters in Grinnell, and I’m not sure if the churches do anything,” Hwang said.

The residents of both houses feel troubled by the occurrence of a break-in.

“I think everyone in my house was pretty shaken up after the events. For me, it has been hard to realize that my room, a place of safety for me, was broken into. I haven’t been sleeping too great, but my whole house has really rallied together to support each other. We just hope nothing like this happens again,” Boggess said.

Two student houses, at 1018 and 1030 East Street, were burgled the night of Saturday, Jan. 26. The Grinnell Police Department has speculated that the burglaries could have been a homeless community member looking for shelter.
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