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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm
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Halloween trick turns criminal, seven rooms robbed

Last week, Claire Tseng ’14 was returning from a night of Halloween partying back to her dorm. But when she tried to open her door, she found it was latched shut from inside—and she could see two masked figures moving about within.

“I went to Harris for awhile, and I got home at around 12:20 [a..m.]. I wanted to go back in so I could change, but the door was latched … from that angle … I could see someone sitting on my bed, but I wrote it off as they were waiting for my roommate … and just waited for them to come out … I didn’t realize that they took anything, but when I walked back into the room, my laptop wasn’t there,” said Tseng.

Tseng wasn’t alone—the holiday festivities were marred by seven reports of theft on campus. Three complaints were made to the Grinnell Police department on Sunday morning after victims returned home, and four more trickled in over the course of the day.

The thefts were evenly divided between North and East campuses, with Rathje, Rose, Younker, and Langan halls being hit. Every room had at least one laptop stolen, and other items taken included iPods, cameras, and various other small electronics.

“You have four different dorms entered over six hours timeframe. We had seven laptops stolen and a variety of items stolen. Frankly, that’s a lot of merchandise,” said Grinnell Police Sergeant Chris Wray.

“Probably the highest crime we deal with up here in the campus is thefts or burglaries,” said Sergeant Wray.

“I didn’t go after them directly because … I thought my boyfriend took it upstairs … but … later on I realized it and …we called security,” said Tseng.

Tseng’s story is unusual: unlike the others, she arrived while the theft was already underway. But with both intruders in full costume get-up, it was impossible to identify much about them—even at point-blank range.

“If someone saw someone coming out of another person’s dorm room in a costume, they might not think anything of it because, you know, it’s Halloween. So that makes it more difficult, then, to try and identify a possible suspect in something like this,” said Wray.

“They were dressed in all black, and had a skeletal mask on. So I didn’t know who it was,” said Tseng.

The thefts were well timed, coming when most people were partying at Harris. The police estimate that all of these burglaries occurred between 9 p.m. Saturday evening and 3 a.m. on Sunday morning. But with a window of time that large and nothing more than a costume description, the police lack the evidence to confirm any suspects.

“I usually leave my door unlocked,” explained Tseng. “The only time I locked it was during 10/10 because of the incident that happened a couple of years ago … and that was why I didn’t realize what happened was a theft, because I have so much trust in the Grinnell community.”

“Police yourself,” said Wray, referencing Grinnell’s principles of self-governance. “If you are in your dorm room and you see someone suspicious going into your neighbor’s dorm room, just ask.”

This year marks the continuation of a disturbing trend: according to Grinnell’s annual security reports, the number of crimes reported on campus from 2007 to 2010 is at an all time. Most of these are burglaries, with arson coming in second place.

“I can’t reiterate enough – whenever you are out of your room, lock your door. … These are simple security measures that you guys can use to protect yourselves,” Wray said. “There are certain … things that the students can do to make themselves less likely to be a victim of those crimes. Just by locking dorm rooms … securing your bicycles with locks, don’t leave laptops in lounge areas, don’t come back two hours later and it’s gone.”

In 2009, 28 out of the 30 reported incidents occurred in a student residential hall, and 9 out of the 12 in 2010.

“We want the students know that here is the Grinnell Police Department. We are very approachable. If they have something, please don’t hesitate and just call us.” Officer Stuart Frickie said.

The Grinnell Police Department and the Grinnell College Campus Security Office are working closely to investigate the cases.

“The college campus security is conducting an ongoing investigation and the Grinnell Police Department is leading it,” said Steve Briscoe, the Director of Campus Safety and Security.

The Grinnell Police Department encourages students to provide any information they have regarding the thefts. Sergeant Wray and Officer Frickie can be reached at (641)-236-2370, or with an e-mail to

“I don’t look at everyone now as a thief, that’s not where I stand. I just feel like people need to be more aware that it can happen, and that it seems like it’s happening more often these days,” Tseng said.

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