Campus patrol increases after string of thefts, burglaries

A string of burglaries and thefts at St. Thomas has Public Safety increasing patrols on campus.

A Feb. 28 Public Safety alert about two office burglaries. (Dan Fastner/TommieMedia)

This past weekend, Public Safety caught and arrested one of two suspects in connection with “damage to property and staging upwards of $30,000 worth of university property for movement off property,” said Michael Barrett, Public Safety associate director.

The St. Paul Police Department arrested the suspect, who is not affiliated with St. Thomas, Saturday morning in connection with the burglary. The burglary occurred at the Physical Plant.

Barrett said Public Safety received a tip from a neighbor about the suspicious behavior.

“Without the call from our community, we likely wouldn’t have found the damage and the property would be gone,” Barrett said. “These two suspects are also career criminals, and this arrest should mean that, if convicted, they receive an upward departure from normal sentencing guidelines.”

Office burglaries on campus

A window was forcibly removed in John Roach Center late Saturday, Feb. 26, and a window pane was removed in McNeely Hall early Sunday, Feb. 27, according to the Public Safety public crime log.

Geography Department Chair David Kelley, whose office is in JRC, said someone broke his window pane and got into his office.

“They pry out the glass without trying to make a mess,” Kelley said. “Mine was the first one that actually broke, but usually they pry off the edges and gently lift the glass out.”

Kelley said although nothing was missing from his office, the offenders “came in because they could.”

“They come in in the middle of the night and don’t take anything,” Kelley said. “It makes me think it’s just a thrill kick. ‘Look what I can do.’”

Barrett said Public Safety has identified the suspect in the McNeely Hall incident and said the person “is not affiliated [with St. Thomas] and is not known to be dangerous.”

Barrett added, “He is a career criminal, and I am working on a plan to ensure he stays away from St. Thomas.”

Community reacts to thefts

Public Safety has reported at least seven on-campus thefts this year, including four computers and one iPad stolen in the past two weeks. A laptop was stolen Feb. 28 from lower-level storage in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center, and three computers were stolen Feb. 25 from the fourth-floor economics lab in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center. On March 2, a laptop was stolen from Opus Hall.

Barrett said Public Safety has increased patrol because of these incidents.

“Public Safety routinely changes the focus of our patrol to increase presence in areas of concern,” Barrett said. “Our department relies heavily on the support of our community to promptly report suspicious and criminal activity to Public Safety and the police.”

Barrett said faculty members should keep an inventory of items in offices or living spaces in case a theft or burglary occurs.

The inventory should include “recording and safely storing make, model and serial number data on electronics such as TVs, gaming machines and portable electronic devices,” Barrett said. “Faculty members should know what textbooks they have on their office shelves, particularly newer editions and ones that currently have a high value in the marketplace.”

Political science professor Steve Hatting said he had a textbook stolen from his office in January.

“It took me awhile to figure out it was missing, because it was not very important,” Hatting said.

History professor Joseph Fitzharris said nothing was taken when his office was broken into in January, but a philosophy notebook was added.

“It makes absolutely no sense,” he said. “It’s almost like they’re doing it to annoy the heck out of us.”

Barrett said despite the broken window panes and stolen laptops, St. Thomas is still a safe place.

“Our campus remains a very safe place to get an education and to live and work,” Barrett said.

Some students said they felt the same way.

“I don’t feel like anything I have will get stolen,” freshman John Teevan said. “I keep my door locked, but I doubt it.”

Sophomore Naitoh Kai said she isn’t really worried about the thefts on campus either.

“It hasn’t really affected me, so I feel safe,” she said.