The Claremont Police Department arrested a Claremont resident Feb. 7 for more than 20 counts of burglary and theft on Claremont McKenna College’s campus this semester.
The suspect had earlier been identified via security footage for his previous thefts. On the morning of Feb. 7, Campus Safety notified CPD about the man after he was spotted on campus attempting to steal a bag from an unattended housekeeping cart, but he fled the scene, Campus Safety said in a statement.
According to a Claremont Courier article, the man left behind his car, which Campus Safety impounded as evidence and used to arrest him when he returned to inquire about it. He appeared before a judge Feb. 9 and was charged with three felony counts of burglary.
“CMC Public Safety identified additional suspects in these crimes and CPD is continuing their work, which may lead to other arrests,” Director of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Brian Weir said in an email to the CMC student body Feb. 11.
Sara Habaibeh CM ’25 lives in Stark Hall, where one burglary occurred. Although none of her belongings were stolen, her friend’s personal laptop was stolen when their room was broken into, despite it being locked.
CMC hired its own private security firm in 2018 to promote safety on campus, assist with event planning and investigate thefts, among other responsibilities.
Even so, CPD was brought in to investigate this incident because the colleges have a “Memorandum of Understanding” with CPD which stipulates that Campus Safety officers respond to campus calls but police, fire or medical services are called when needed.
Students have run into complications working with police, though. When Allison Fitz PO ’24 had her car stolen last December, she called Campus Safety, who then called CPD.
First, Campus Safety told her they’d found the culprit, who had apparently been driving the car in and out of the garage. However, after Fitz reviewed the footage, she realized that Campus Safety had mistaken her car for a car of similar make and color. The supposed car thief “was just taking her own car in and out of the garage.”
After identifying the correct car, Fitz attempted to file a report with CPD. A CPD officer asked if Fitz wanted to press charges against the thief. Fitz expressed hesitation.
“Once I got my car back, I [didn’t] have any reason [to want] for this man to be in jail,” she told TSL. The officer told her that CPD would be more likely to find her car if she agreed to press charges, she said.
Fitz eventually agreed, but said the decision was “really hard” and described the situation as “stressful and overwhelming.” Officers from the Pomona Police Department recovered her car in the city of Pomona the next day.
Fitz was asked again if she wanted to press charges. Pomona police told Fitz that the court would contact her to proceed, so Fitz told the officers she wanted to press charges, with the intention of dropping them once reached out to later on.
But aside from a notice delivered to her home in Washington state in January, Fitz never heard about the case again. She doesn’t know what happened to the suspect.
Corporal Nick Martinez of CPD’s Detective Bureau told TSL that a victim’s desire to press charges has no effect on police efforts to recover stolen property.
“As a part of the investigation, we will ask the victim if they are desirous of prosecution,” he said, “However they answer [is recorded] and you still take a report.”
Reflecting on the experience, Fitz was uncomfortable that the police placed the weight of a decision about the suspect’s future on her.
“Overall, the communication was very spotty and inefficient, and there was pressure for me to press charges when I was visibly uncomfortable with this question,” she said.
However, she noted that “the whole process took two days, which is incredibly fast and incredibly lucky.”
According to The Claremont Colleges Services spokesperson Laura Muna-Landa, property crime increased in the Claremont community and throughout Southern California in 2021 after a dip in 2020.
Fitz said that she is aware of a rise in crime but that she doesn’t feel unsafe on campus.
Habaibeh echoed a similar sentiment, but noted that the burglary in her residence hall affected her behavior. “While I could [previously] leave [my] personal belongings unattended for some time, to go to the bathroom or run a quick errand … I can’t do that anymore,” she said.
“Campus Safety encourages students, faculty and staff to continue securing doors when entering private facilities and locking dorms and offices when leaving,” Muna-Landa said in an email. “Everyone is encouraged to be aware of their surroundings and notify Campus Safety immediately of unusual or suspicious activity on campus.”