Pomona first-year housing rocked by night of thefts

Photo illustration: No suspect has been identified in the multiple thefts that have occurred at Pomona College’s south campus dorms. (Amy Best • The Student Life)

Matti Horne PO ’22 was playing board games in her friend’s room in Pomona College’s Mudd-Blaisdell Hall around midnight in late March. She had only been gone for about 20 minutes, leaving the door to her room open, she said, when she came back to find more than $2,500 worth of personal items had been stolen.

The taken items included a laptop, a phone, an iPod, a speaker, a small camera, a safe containing bank account information and a wallet containing her driver’s license and passport. Horne said her sponsor immediately reported the theft to Campus Safety, but she still has not received any information.

“I assumed, it’s midnight on a Friday in a sub-free hall, nobody’s going to be in here,” Horne said. “But I was wrong.”

The theft from Horne’s room was just one of several thefts that occurred late in the night of March 29 or early the following morning. Incidents were reported in two residence halls, Mudd-Blaisdell and Gibson Hall on Pomona’s south campus, where many of the college’s first-years live. The two buildings share a common entrance.

Among other thefts that night, Siddharth Namachivayam PO ’22 and Alfredo Moreno PO ’22 reported their laptops stolen from Moreno’s room in Gibson. Nadia Paquin PO ’22 had her longboard stolen from outside her room, also in Gibson.

“We have not identified a suspect and are not able to speculate about who is behind the thefts or why they have chosen these particular targets,” Director of Campus Safety Stan Skipworth said via email.

“I assumed, it’s midnight on a Friday in a sub-free hall, nobody’s going to be in here, but I was wrong.” — Matti Horne PO ’22 

The cases have been referred to the Claremont Police Department, according to Campus Safety’s Clery Daily Crime Logs.

Pomona’s Director of Residential Life Steven Jubert said the late March thefts on South Campus represent a heightened level of incidents for one week. His office is regularly in communication with Campus Safety, and trains resident advisors to conduct walkthroughs in part to look out for potentially suspicious individuals.

Jubert said his office will consider new theft-prevention mechanisms, which could include adding security cameras at residence hall entrances.

Jubert also encouraged students to take steps to secure their rooms, including not allowing strangers to follow them into their halls or leaving their belongings unattended.

“Largely, the particular crimes that will occur are crimes of opportunity,” Jubert said. “For example, you leave your bag for one second, just to go do one thing, and then someone unfortunately comes and removes something. That’s why we want to get the word out to [students] about making sure they’re securing their things.”

Horne said students’ attitudes may have something to do with letting unknown people inside residence halls.

“The culture here is very much, ‘you’re coming into the building, I’ll hold the door for you,’” Horne said. “I don’t know everybody on campus, so it’s kind of impossible to know who is a student and who is not.”

Paquin, the student who had her longboard stolen, said she is taking steps to secure her room and encouraged others to do the same.

“I’m locking my door a lot more, I’ve told everyone in my hall to lock their doors, I’m keeping my stuff with me as much as I can,” Paquin said. “[Before,] I definitely had worries because I’d leave it right outside my door, but a bunch of other people also left their skateboards out the same way. I was just, ‘alright, I guess this is how people run in Pomona,’ so I was pretty surprised when it got stolen.”

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The victims of the thefts are trying to replace their stolen belongings.

Namachivayam and Horne both applied for emergency grants from the dean of students’ office, but said they were told emergency grants for laptops only cover repairs, not theft. The office referred Namachivayam to multiple avenues to take out a loan, which he said he is unwilling to do.

Moreno said he set up a GoFundMe to raise $1,000 for a new laptop, and raised more than $1,500 in six days.

Namachivayam said he does not suspect his fellow students were involved in the thefts, but said the crime spree might be difficult for a non-student.

“It seems odd that someone from off-campus would be able to quickly navigate the buildings, unless they’d been in here before,” Namachivayam said. “But on the other hand, if it was a student, I feel they would have known we need our laptops to do work. It seems like something a student at Pomona wouldn’t do, so I’d like to think it wasn’t a student.”

These thefts follow similar incidents in February at Pomona’s Harwood Hall, also on south campus, in which students’ cameras, iPads and wallets were stolen. That night, two individuals were arrested for possession of burglary tools and attempted theft.

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