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Campus responds to string of recent thefts

A rash of three burglaries in the past two weeks has Public Safety calling for a greater collective awareness of security issues on campus.

Director of Public Safety Michael Lopez sent out information on the burglaries via campus wide e-mails following each incident.

The first e-mail outlined details surrounding the burglary that occurred Nov. 6, when someone entered an office on the second floor of Mills Hall and stole a wallet and cash from a purse sometime between 1:15 p.m. and 1:23 p.m.

Public Safety has a person of interest for this burglary, who they describe as a black female about five feet tall. She was seen entering and exiting the office as well leaving the campus a while later.

The second of the burglaries took place on Nov. 9 when a purse was stolen from an office in the Vera Long Building between 12 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Public Safety has no solid description of that suspect.

Lopez said he has had many responses to the e-mail about the burglary in Vera Long. Between when the e-mail was sent out on Nov. 10 and the next day, Lopez received four responses from Mills staff. Two staff members gave descriptions of people they did not recognize.

The last burglary occurred Nov. 11 between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. when someone entered a studio in the sculpture building and stole camera equipment. The stolen equipment totaled more than $2,000 according to Public Safety. Public Safety has no description of the person responsible but does know that the person entered the studio through an unlocked window.

Public Safety has two ongoing programs intended to raise awareness about campus safety. One was first implemented two years and one was just began this semester.

The first program is called “See Something, Say Something,” and is intended to get the Mills community to report suspicious activity.

“We want to know when you see anything that is unusual. We would much rather get there and have it be nothing than come too late,” said Gary Pierce, a day shift Public Safety officer.

The “See Something, Say Something” program has been advertised much more this year than in previous years because public safety says it now has the ability to do so. They have three student workers to attach flyers in dorms, bathrooms and frequented buildings on campus.

Pierce feels that the program has been more successful this semester.

“I have noticed a little more of an uptick in reporting,” said Pierce.

Niviece Robinson, assistant director of Public Safety, has noticed that people are becoming more observant lately. The program is helping Public Safety identify suspicious people on campus.

“See Something, Say Something” is not only a safety program at Mills. The program was implemented at colleges all over the country shortly after 9/11.

“The point is to call right away, not 15 or 20 minutes after you see something suspicious,” said Robinson.

According to Robinson, efforts to advertise this campaign are also being ramped up because of the upcoming theft season. Petty thefts are much more common right now and during the next few months because of the holidays being so close.

“The program tries to initiate people to get engaged in the community and care about the people around them,” said Robinson.

In crime alerts sent out via e-mail, Lopez urged Mills students, faculty and staff to keep offices and studios locked when not in them.

“These thieves are very quick and can be in and out of your offices in seconds,” said Lopez in an e-mail crime alert.

Lopez advises residential students not to let people follow them into the dorms. Lopez also says to make sure individual dorms are locked at all times.

The second program is entitled “GOTCHA.” This program was initiated to encourage faculty and staff to lock their offices. If Public Safety finds an office unlocked and unoccupied, they will lock it.

The final measure Public Safety is taking following the recent rash of theft is hiring a private security guard to patrol the back outer edges of campus in a golf cart. The guard’s first day was Nov. 19.

Even with the rash of burglaries on campus in the last two weeks, some students still feel safe.

“I do not think anyone is going to jump the barb wire. I feel really safe. Public Safety does a very good job checking up on everything,” said Simmone Dyrness, a first year at Mills.

For Dyrness, theft is preventable.

“I feel like people just need to watch their stuff. Public Safety cannot take care of everything,” said Dyrness.

Others feel much less secure after the burglaries.

“I used to be very lax about letting my handbag sit around. Now, I always lock it up even if I am just going to the bathroom,” said Holly Robinson, faculty administrative assistant for the social sciences.

Other than the three burglaries committed this semester, only one other burglary was reported and investigated this past spring semester.

Lopez said that two people, both female, have been arrested for burglaries since he began working at Mills in Spring 2006. Both were unassociated with Mills.

According to Lopez, most crimes at Mills are thefts that are committed by people unassociated with the Mills community. Most of the burglaries committed at the College are crimes of opportunity or petty thefts of items like phones or purses.