Two dorms at Pomona were burglarized on the evening of Friday, Nov. 19, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum told the Pomona community in an email Nov. 20. The burglaries occurred in the Clark I and Wig dorms.
“Laptops, other electronic items, purses, and money were taken from the rooms while students were away,” Feldblum wrote. “These rooms were on the first floor, and it appears that the perpetrator(s) took the screens off unlocked windows to gain entry.”
According to Shahram Ariane, Director of Campus Safety, the burglaries took place “around the same time,” but it remains unclear whether the events were related.
“It’d be appropriate not to speculate whether the acts were coordinated and/or committed by the same person,” Ariane said. “This is an active police investigation.”
At least six students in Clark I had items stolen.
“I got back [to my room] at 12, and [my suitemate] had left at 11, so it happened between that time,” said Lauri Valerio PO ’12, whose room in Clark I was burglarized. “The window was wide open and the screen was gone, and my laptop, which had been on my bed, was gone,” she said. The window screen was later found to be lying in the bushes outside.
Valerio called Campus Safety and notified her suitemate, Raven Evans PO ’12. The Claremont Police Department (CPD) was called in to check for fingerprints, but no marks were found, Valerio said.
“It looked pretty professional,” Valerio said. “[The thieves] were probably using gloves, which in itself implies some level of professionalism.”
Both Valerio and Evans noted that the burglars appeared to have been in a rush.
“There was a lot more that they could have taken that they didn’t,” Valerio said. “Raven’s iPod was right on her floor, and they didn’t take that.”
“They took my purse, but luckily they dropped or left my car keys in the middle of Lauri’s floor, so that was strange, but lucky,” she said.
Soon after Valerio and Evans returned to their room, other students living in nearby suites discovered that their rooms had been burglarized as well. At least one other laptop was stolen, along with two cameras.
As of Tuesday, neither Campus Safety nor the CPD had any leads in the case, according to Campus Life Coordinator Jacque DuBose PO ’04, who was the on-call dean Nov. 19.
“They’re doing an investigation, and they’ll keep us notified, but right now the culprits haven’t been identified,” she said.
According to Valerio and Evans, the Campus Safety officers they spoke to gave little indication that the burglars would be found.
“[One of] the Campus Safety [officers] mentioned that it might have been two guys … that they’d seen walking around campus earlier that day, who looked suspicious,” Valerio said. According to Evans, the Campus Safety officer reported seeing the two men walking down the ramp near Frary.
“I asked [the Campus Safety officers] how often things like this get resolved, and they [said] hardly ever,” Valerio said. “They said there’s a lot of stealing, a lot of theft on the 5Cs … and it’s really unlikely that they would find who stole it.”
It remained unclear if students could have participated in or orchestrated the burglary.
“I would hope and kind of assume that it was an off-campus person,” Evans said. “But the fact that they knew that the rooms were connecting, which you can’t really see from outside … just certain things … I don’t know.”
In response to the incident, Campus Safety increased the number of officers dedicated to patrolling Pomona’s dorms from one officer to four, at least for the time being, according to Feldblum.
“Pomona now has two dedicated officers on South Campus and two on North, patrolling the residence halls in the evening,” she said. “Next week, we will assess whether we want to continue this additional security layer through the end of the semester.”
Administrators and Campus Safety officers emphasized the importance of student involvement in preventing crime on campus.
“It is essential that our students take reasonable care to look after their personal safety and property by securing their dorm room doors and windows, not leaving their personal property unattended, and reporting any suspicious activity to Campus Safety,” Ariane said.
“I hear stories about people who go jogging and keep their windows open and then climb back into their windows when they get back,” she said. “I mean, we’re showing people how to get into our halls and take our stuff!”
Dubose, who graduated from Pomona in 2004, said the level of thefts and burglaries on campus has remained constant over the years, but student precautions have decreased.
“To be honest, I rarely see students locking up their laptops the way we used to back in my day,” she said. “I have no idea what it is, but I’d be interested to see why that sense of security has decreased.”
Valerio and Evans said the incident has led them to reconsider the assumptions they make about security on Pomona’s campus.
“I was majorly shaken up when I got to the room,” Valerio said. “I still feel safe, [but] I’m more aware of what I do now.”
“I’m still kind of confused how so many rooms could be broken into without anyone seeing anything,” Evans added. “It makes me question my safety a bit, if something like that can happen, but for the most part, I feel like Pomona takes appropriate measures.”
When asked about safety at the 5Cs in general, considering the burglaries that have taken place this semester at Pomona, CMC, Honnold/Mudd Library, and elsewhere, Feldblum said the perception of increased security violations is mostly a result of increased awareness.
“I do not think the campus has become less safe,” she said. “I think we have become more aware of the safety precautions we should all take because crime can and does happen.”