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Break-ins prompt new Housing security measures

Last week’s campus burglaries have prompted Student Housing to take new preventative security measures in Stanford’s dorms and houses.

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) sent out e-mails and flyers to remind students to take extra safety precautions, and the Housing After-Hours Response Team (HART) has heightened its nightly patrols of student housing and dining areas to check for unclosed perimeter doors. The patrols are now at a level normally reserved for winter break when students are away, said Rodger Whitney, executive director of Student Housing.

The Row housing office is taking note of which houses are going on ski trip in the upcoming weekends and will be increasing security around those houses at that time. It will also be holding a security meeting with the Row residence assistants (RAs).

Break-in at Theta

Over winter break, the residents of Kappa Alpha Theta received an e-mail from Student Housing: there had been a break-in at the Theta house.

When the residents returned to campus after break, they assessed what had been stolen. Ryan Rogers ’11, an RA, said they were surprised to find out that only two items were taken: a TV and an iHome.

“It was kind of bizarre because there is evidence that the burglars did get into a quite a few of the other rooms by doors being pried open,” Rogers said, “but there was nothing else taken.”

The Theta house contains around 30 rooms. More than half of these rooms had crowbar marks on their doors. Rogers said some of these marks are deep enough to suggest that the burglars were able to enter these rooms.

“It was kind of unclear why they would go through all that effort and put all those crowbar marks on the doors if they weren’t really going to steal anything,” Rogers said.

In response to the break-in, a new lock has been installed on the outside door to Theta, which had previously been left opened.

Burglary at Bob

Sam Svoboda ’11, an RA at the Mayfield Avenue residence Bob, was sleeping last Friday night when he heard his phone ring. On the other line was a fellow resident who had just come up from the lounge to his second-floor room and discovered that his laptop was missing, said Svoboda, who is also a Daily writer.

Later, they discovered a total of four rooms in Bob, all unlocked, had been broken into. The current list of items that were stolen includes three MacBooks, an iPod, an iPod Touch, a camera and money from three of the four rooms.

Most of the residents weren’t there that night. Normally, Bob houses 58 students, but Svoboda said about 10 stayed back from the ski trip that weekend.

“If we had had a full house here, I think the chances would’ve dramatically increased that someone would’ve seen something,” he said.

At first, Svoboda said they thought that someone had let the burglars in.

But Housing discovered that side door was defective and stayed slightly ajar unless pulled closed. This entrance would’ve allowed the suspects to get into the house without a key and without passing through the lounge, where most of the residents were that night. The door was fixed the day after the burglary, Svoboda said.

Hot Prowl at Grove Mayfield

Bob Clark ’11, an RA at Grove Mayfield, was on the house’s ski trip last weekend when he saw the text message from the SU Alert system. It said a “hot prowl” had occurred at his residence.

“A lot of people didn’t know what that mean,” Clark said, “so we actually looked it up on Wikipedia.”

A hot prowl is a burglary attempt when the suspect breaks into a residence with the occupants still inside, which is what happened to a resident of Grove last Saturday night when three unidentified men allegedly opened her unlocked door. She woke up and screamed as the suspects fled in an unidentified direction. No thefts were reported.

“I think there’s a tendency to downplay this because nothing bad ended up happening,” Clark said, “We are fortunate that nothing was taken, but it’s pretty scary that three unknown individuals walked in on one of our residents sleeping.”

It was later discovered that the residence had two defective doors — one in the kitchen and one in the dining area. Clark guessed that the suspects entered through the door in the kitchen and came up the stairs.

Both doors were fixed the next day before the residents returned from the ski trip.

Clark said he is unsure whether the suspects were students or non-students.

“There’s been a lot of debate back and forth about it,” Clark said. “On one hand, we initially thought that they might be students because it seemed like if they were the same individuals who were at Bob, then they were targeting houses that were on ski trip, which would require knowledge of what houses were going.”

“But it may be more likely that they are from off campus somewhere,” Clark added. “Perhaps they were just looking for houses that were mostly dark.”

What’s Next?

According to Larson, the number of burglaries has remained consistent over the years.

During the 2008-2009 school year, from the beginning of the 2008 autumn quarter to the end of the 2009 summer quarter, 67 burglaries occurred. There were 59 during the 2009-2010 school year and, so far, 15 this year.

“Burglaries occur throughout the year,” Larson wrote in an e-mail to The Daily. “Burglary is often a crime of opportunity such as when doors are propped open or suspicious persons are not immediately reported.”

Larson said that few arrests have been made for burglaries over the past few years, but was unable to say how many.

Larson said DPS, Student Housing and Residential Education will continue to work together to remind students to lock all doors and windows, and to report suspicious or unfamiliar persons to Housing staff or Public Safety.

“We have a very safe campus in general,” Clark said, “but someone can take advantage of our comfort and our trust that it is a safe campus. I think this is a little bit of a wake-up call and tell us that we need to be proactive.”

  • john

    These guys aren’t criminal masterminds. Don’t the police take fingerprints?

    I will state the obvious. There should be extra security when a house goes on a ski trip.