Two Theft Suspects Found and ArrestedBy Michelle Nyein
Two suspects have been apprehended in the recent string thefts reported in McCormick Hall, Baker House, MacGregor House, and Green Hall since Sept. 26.
On Oct. 2, Stephanie DeAngelis was arrested for trespassing in Building E17; and on Oct. 4, Peter Sheppard was arrested for trespassing in MacGregor. Both DeAngelis and Sheppard are considered suspects in the dormitory robberies, said John E. Driscoll, deputy chief of the MIT Police.
Seventeen thefts have been reported in the four dormitories since Sept. 26, and stolen items include cash, credit cards, laptops, checkbooks, jewelry, drivers licenses, and MP3 players.
Since the arrests, no thefts have been reported in the dormitories.
Thieves target open, empty rooms
MacGregor House President Joe D. Jacobs ’04 said that “the suspect would go door to door and see if doors were unlocked.”
If the resident was present, he would ask for the time, but if the resident was not there, he would take money out of wallets and steal perfume, audio equipment, and laptops, Jacobs said.
“A major problem was that students didn’t lock their doors when they went to take showers,” he said. The thief would take advantage of these opportunities.
The suspects in the McCormick and Baker thefts used similar tactics. According to a police bulletin issued on Oct. 1, victims reported seeing two females, each approximately 18 years old, one with dark brown hair and one with black hair in a ponytail and curls.
Baker House President Anthony D. Weinbeck ’04 said that the suspects would generally go into unlocked rooms and, if the room resident was there, would ask for “Christina.” If the room was empty, they would go through backpacks and drawers.
“The problem was that the suspects were people who could very easily pass for McCormick residents, and they just slipped by the front door,” said McCormick President Marjan S. Bolouri ’04.
Jonathan F. Nolan, house manager for Baker and Green Hall, said that there has only been one robbery so far in Green Hall, and this was the first robbery in the graduate dormitory in five years. He said that the suspect posed as a friend of one of the resident’s.
Police arrest suspects
Jacobs said that a police sketch artist was called after the first theft, a description was posted immediately via e-mail and flyers, and the house manager notified other dormitories.
Sheppard was later apprehended in MacGregor. MacGregor Desk Captain Laurence A. Wong ’04 said, “A student from C-entry followed the thief through all the entries until the CPs [MIT Police] could come and catch him.”
Driscoll said that Sheppard was caught with a duffel bag of approximately $200 worth of frozen food, and was immediately arrested for trespassing.
He said Sheppard is also a suspect in house break-ins in Boston and Brookline. Driscoll said that MIT Police is currently working with the Brookline police department on those incidents.
Driscoll said that DeAngelis was caught in Building E17 after police responded to a report of a suspicious person rifling through desks in office areas.
He said that when she was apprehended, the police found cash and credit cards that were not in her name. Some stolen property remains unaccounted for, and the MIT Police are still investigating whether other people are involved, Driscoll said.
Dorm entrance security tightened
In response to the recent thefts, front desks in some dormitories have changed entrance policies.
“Desk is abiding by a strict policy that if you don’t have an ID, you have to verify your identity through a third person, MIT ID number, or home address in order to go upstairs or check out a spare key,” Wong said.
Also, all guests have to be picked up at the front desk, he said.
McCormick Desk Captain Raquel Escatel ’05 said, “we have the policy where we don’t let anyone in unless they have their ID.”
Dormitories have also encouraged residents to lock doors and question strangers.
Jacobs said notices have been sent to graduate residence tutors, asking them to keep an eye on dormitory entrances. “Front desk can only do so much in denying access -- there are over eight other entrances that it doesn’t have control over,” he said.
Bolouri said that “once you pass the front door, residents tend to forget that there is not much separating strangers from dorm rooms besides locked doors.”
Residents lock doors
Residents appear to have become more cautious in light of the thefts.
“People who have never locked their doors have started locking their doors,” Weinbeck said.
MacGregor House Manager Robert T. Ramsay Jr. said that “students would hold doors open before -- we don’t see that anymore.”
“Soon everyone will feel relaxed,” said MacGregor Housemaster Jinane Abounadi PhD ’98. “It is important to keep reminding students of basic safety precautions.”
Driscoll said that such strings of thefts are uncommon.
“I’d never seen anything this severe in the four years I’ve been here,” Weinbeck said.