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West Campus Crime Rash Leads to CP Investigation

By Kristen Landino

Six larcenies were reported from Baker, Burton-Conner, and MacGregor dormitory rooms between January 26 and February 1.

Due to the nature of the crime, Campus Police believe that the suspects will strike again. Chief Investigator and Detective Sergeant Mary Beth Riley describes it as “a crime of opportunity.”

“We are working off information from victims. We have been diligently working in west campus for the past few days and have made two arrests. They may be tied in, or not,” said Riley.

Victims report that their rooms were left unattended in all but one incident. Most crimes occurred between 9 a.m. and noon. One incident, however, occurred around 6 a.m. while the victim was sleeping.

Items stolen included a laptop computer, CD Player, wallet, computer games, watch, camera, and cell phone, among other things.

Victims describe suspects

A composite drawing has been created with the help of one victim and this description matches those of the other victims. This suspect is described as follows according to a bulletin distributed by MIT Campus Police: “male, black, 6 feet 4 inches, with a large build, ‘huge,’ no clothing description available, but he did ask for a cigarette.”

Descriptions of two more suspects are also available from a victim in a MacGregor larceny. A second suspect was identified as “male, black, 5 feet 6 inches, medium build, with short black hair, wearing green and black camouflage pants, a black jacket and a black skiing style headband -- may have been wearing a scully hat or beret.” The third suspect was described as “male, black, wearing baggy clothing or wind pants.”

CPs are not sure whether the incidents are related. “There are three different suspects. It is possible that some are related, but not all.

CPs increase crime prevention

In light of the recent crime rash on west campus, CPs have become increasingly responsive to calls made reporting suspicious people in dormitories. Police have also increased security in dormitories on Amherst. They are making extra patrols in dormitory common areas and meeting with desk workers to discuss better safety measures.

“Educational effort is our prime concern. If more people are aware and sensitive to crime prevention, it will be easier to apprehend the suspect,” said Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin.

Campus Police have initiated a number of educational programs in order to increase student awareness. Immediately following the larcenies on January 26, Campus Police issued a warning bulletin informing students of the incidents and the suspects involved. On February 2, another notice was dispersed which included a composite drawing of one of the suspects.

Most recently, CPs held a seminar at MacGregor as part of their crime prevention program. Topics focused on what to do if students spot someone suspicious in their dormitory as well as how to identify suspects by distinguishing characteristics.

“We try to encourage people to remember unique features of suspicious people rather than the general facts that people often focus on such as gender, height, or race. It is more useful if people focus on specific things such as what kind of sneakers the person is wearing. It will make it easier for us to identify the suspect if details of this type are remembered,” Glavin said.

In their programs, CPs also stress the importance of students locking their doors at all times. According to Glavin, none of the incidents involved forced entry because students had left their doors open.

Confirming suspects a problem

One of the major problems is that CPs are unable to say with certainty whether the suspects are students or not, or how entry to the dormitory was gained.

“They could be friends of students here or somehow have easy access to the dorm. We don’t know for sure. We can’t blame desk captains for letting people in ... the suspects could enter behind legitimate students who open the door with their card,” Glavin said.

Current desk policy requires that people who enter the dorm be residents or invited guests of residents.

“Desk workers are being asked to be generally more observant -- to look out for suspicious people,” said Nicole Balli ’00, Baker House President.

CPs also recommend students register their laptop computers and parents take out a waiver on their homeowner’s insurance for their children. In most cases, Glavin said this extension did not cost parents anything.

“A series of larcenies is not too common at MIT. “Occasionally, we have things like this happen. In this particular case, the person thinks they have found a perfect opportunity. They’ll keep it up for a period of time,” Glavin said.

According to Glavin, the pattern of a criminal like this one tends to show that the suspect will stop for a brief period of time immediately following a series of crimes and then start up again. The criminal will not stop because he/she thinks that they have been successful. The chances of the suspect returning are very good, said Glavin.

“If everyone knows what is going on and how to protect themselves, eventually we will catch them,” Glavin said.

The CPs are working with other universities in the area to see if the incidents at MIT match any patterns of crime observed at other nearby colleges. Riley noted that there have been larceny arrests recently on other campuses in the area.

Students as well as dormitory officers have been instrumental in the CPs efforts to apprehend the suspects, Riley said.

For example, Baker’s internal security systems were utilized immediately following a larceny at Baker. All doors to the dormitory were secured and students searched the various floors for the suspects.