While two Mills students sat in their rooms studying Friday, Oct. 28, a burglar climbed through the open window of their Prospect Hill apartment living room, taking a laptop and two video cameras.
Two students who live in the apartment, Ezra Tubig and April Uyehara, said a Public Safety officer arrived on the scene, gathered general information, and said that he would return within 20 minutes. That was more than two weeks ago.
“That night our safety was invaded and we were left vulnerable and no one has yet to do anything to reassure us that we are safe in this environment. No one. Not Public Safety, Housing—no one,” Uyehara said.
According to Uyehara, Akiko Shinomiya, the third of four roommates, came back to their Prospect Hill apartment around 9 p.m. that evening and dropped off her video camera. Shinomiya remembered hearing noises outside the window before she left, but didn’t think anything of it.
The window of the apartment had been open most of the day. Tubig and Uyehara left to their rooms shortly before nine o’clock that evening. It is believed the burglar removed the window screen and climbed through the window between 9:30 p.m. and 12 a.m.
When another roommate, Kanoko Nishi, returned home at midnight, she found that her laptop was not sitting on the living room table where she’d left it. After checking her bedroom, Nishi discovered that in addition to her laptop, two video cameras, one belonging to the Mills A/V department, were missing.
“If the person who came through our window that night had had different intentions, Ezra and I were definitely home and very much at risk,” said Uyehara. “Things are replaceable but personal safety is a much bigger issue.”
When Nishi realized the apartment had been burglarized, she contacted Public Safety. Tubig said that once she reported that the laptop and video cameras were stolen from her living room, the Public Safety officer yelled at her for being irresponsible and leaving them behind. Once she clarified that she lived in a Prospect Hill apartment, and that her property had been stolen by a thief who broke into the apartment while her and her roommate were there, a Public Safety officer was dispatched to the scene.
Tubig and Uyehara said the officer explained that he needed to find out what he was expected to do about the issue and said he would report back to them within 20 minutes. When the officer failed to return, the students contacted Public Safety three times and said they have not received a return call or visit.
“When I finally did talk to someone I asked if they planned on contacting Oakland police and the officer told me they couldn’t because it wasn’t forceful entry,” Tubig said. “I don’t understand what they mean by forceful entry. Does it mean they won’t do something until one of us is attacked?”
Since the burglary, the students have taken their own safety measures. Uyehara went to Home Depot and purchased wooden dowels to prevent the windows from being pried open. Although she and the students feel safer than they did before Oct. 28, they still feel that their safety is in question.
A meeting was held at the Prospect Hill apartments on Monday, Nov. 15, to discuss safety issues on campus. Out of the total 31 students in residence, four attended the meeting, including Tubig and Uyehara. The meeting was called by the House Manager, Michelle Blackford, who said she was prompted to hold the meeting in part because of the recent theft, and to discuss other safety issues involved in living in an apartment. Blackford opened the meeting by expressing her concern for the students who were present during the break in and offered some suggestions that could be used to deter future break ins.
“We have to be more cognizant of what is going on around us,” Blackford said. “If we see someone who doesn’t look like they belong in the area, it is our responsibility to make note of that.”
Dan Brown, Public Safety director, and Marisa Aurora, Student Life Coordinator, were also in attendance and solicited other suggestions on how Public Safety and the Office of Student Life could help to make students feel safer on campus.
Kelsi Johnson, sophomore, suggested an e-mail alias be created for each dorm on campus which would provide an improved level of communication between residents. Makinda Burroughs-Miller, a senior, agreed and expressed her frustration at not being notified of the burglary first hand.
“I didn’t find out about the incident until just recently and it was from a friend of one of the women whose room was broken into,” Burroughs-Miller said. “I think we should all be aware of what is going on when it happens so we’ll know something is being done about it. That’s why I came to this meeting. I wanted to find out what’s going to happen now.”
When students asked about the procedure for thefts on campus, Brown said that everyone must first contact Public Safety immediately. Once Public Safety has been notified, they are responsible for contacting the Oakland Police Department with the report. The report is then given to Brown, who makes contact with the student and provides information to the Office of Student Life so they are aware of the situation.
“I can’t respond to what has happened prior to my arrival at Mills, but I will say that this is the procedure I am enforcing,” Brown said.
“We do care about the safety of every student on campus,” Aurora said. “That’s why we are here at the meeting and I would like to meet with the students whose apartment was broken into to see if there is anything we could do differently to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Uyehara and Tubig said they felt much better after the meeting.
“Before tonight I hadn’t heard from anyone in Public Safety or Housing and I was very frustrated. I feel a lot better now and it means a great deal that both Dan Brown and Marisa Aurora were present at the meeting and able to answer a lot of my questions and concerns,” said Uyehara.