Golf cart theft at the Claremont Colleges has increased over the past few months, according to an e-mail sent to Pomona College students.
“We have seen a dramatic rise during this academic year with six reported cases just in the past two months,” wrote Director of Campus Safety for the Claremont Colleges Shahram Ariane in an e-mail to TSL. “Generally speaking, theft of a golf cart has been an uncommon occurrence in the 5C community. The majority of the recent incidents have involved Pomona College’s freshman and sophomore students.”
One student, speaking under conditions of anonymity, said he has stolen a golf cart “five or six times—I don’t really remember.” He said he has driven them around campus and into the Claremont Village.
Another student said he first stole a golf cart early in his first year, during orientation week.
“We had heard that the mailroom keys fit inside the ignitions,” he said. “I was with a group of kids and we just turned it on and rode it around.”
The student said that he returned the cart to its original location undamaged. He attempted to steal another cart at a later date, but his mailroom key did not work on that particular cart. According to both students, only certain mailroom keys seem to work, and only on certain carts.
“You have to sort of just guess and check,” the second student said.
Though used by a variety of groups at the Claremont Colleges, golf carts are primarily used by maintenance and Campus Safety.
“Five of the last six incidents have involved Campus Safety’s golf carts,” Ariane said.
“Upon arrival, our officers turn off the ignition and remove the ignition key prior to rushing to provide assistance to the caller,” Ariane said. “By doing so, the golf cart is left unattended outside as our officers are committed to focus their efforts on responding to the calls made for help.”
“It is important for everyone to note that, while on the surface these acts may be viewed by some as harmless fun, there are unintended negative consequences that will follow,” Ariane said.
In response to the increase in golf cart theft, Pomona Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum sent out an e-mail to the Pomona College community Feb. 14.
“These carts, which are street legal vehicles and can be valued at $10,000 or more, have often been found damaged and abandoned,” Feldblum wrote.
Both of the students interviewed for this article denied damaging the carts, but they said that they abandoned the carts far from their original locations.
In her e-mail, Feldblum wrote that golf cart theft “would be classified as a felony by police, and students engaged in this activity can be subject to arrest.”
Feldblum wrote that the Claremont Police Department would be contacted in the future to address incidents of theft. Ariane said that Campus Safety has already discussed the issue with CPD.
“We have in the past attempted to have a very tempered response with great restraint,” Ariane said. “Unfortunately the recent events have left us no choice but to reconsider our posture.”
“What is clear is our future course of action regarding arrest and prosecution of suspects involved in these activities,” Ariane said. “Whether this will deter individuals from further acts remains to be seen.”