People often refer to Claremont as the “city of trees and PhDs,” but for the many Pomona College students whose laptops, cell phones and other devices have been stolen this semester, the title “city of thefts and burglaries” might be more appropriate.
Since Aug. 18, Campus Safety’s federally mandated daily crime logs have shown 15 reported thefts on Pomona’s campus, including a mugging in front of the Oldenborg Center in September. Many occured in first-year dorms on South Campus, especially Gibson Hall and Mudd-Blaisdell Hall.
In response to these recent thefts, Pomona may accelerate its plans to add more lighting to its South Campus.
Contractors were already at work on an existing plan to install more North Campus lighting prior to the thefts, according to Robert Robinson, Pomona’s assistant vice president of facilities. But now South Campus — especially the areas around Oldenborg and Mudd-Blaisdell — will take priority.
“Will we change a location to do it faster based on the thefts? Yeah, we probably will do that,” he said. “We will bump that up sooner.”
Robinson did not respond to a follow-up question about when the lighting would be added.
Robinson said that he and his coworkers “do systematic walkthroughs of the campus each month at night and individually record where lights are out and where lights need to be placed.”
Currently, they’re installing wall-mounted light fixtures around the Clark I, Clark V and Walker residence halls on North Campus.
Robinson also emphasized that the school has other safety measures in place, highlighting the LiveSafe app, which allows students to have Campus Safety track their path from one campus location to another and make sure they reach their destination safely.
Angelikah Chun PO ’21, the student whose phone was snatched from her hands in front of Oldenborg last month on her way back from theater rehearsal, said the incident made her wary of walking back to her dorm alone.
“Now it’s kind of passed and I’ve kind of moved on, but for a while, walking back from theater was a very scary experience,” she said.
Chun said she thought adding more lighting on South Campus would be helpful for preventing similar crimes.
“Some parts of campus are definitely a little bit darker,” she said. “Even when I was describing the people who took my phone to Campus [Safety], I couldn’t really see what they looked like because it was too dark.”
Celia Parry’s PO ’23 said her Beats headphones and her roommate’s laptop were stolen from their room in Gibson Hall during the first few days of school.
“I definitely didn’t really expect anything like it to happen,” she said.
Parry said she thought additional lighting would help address crime on campus.
“I know sometimes when I stay at the library kind of late and I walk back, it’s pretty dark,” she said.
Hannah Mandell PO ’23, Parry’s roommate, echoed her sentiments, saying that hearing about the Oldenborg mugging after having her laptop stolen “kind of terrified” her and thinks “more lighting would definitely help mitigate some of that anxiety of being out late at night.”
In compliance with state requirements, 40 percent of the lights on Pomona’s campus have motion sensors and only light up fully when people approach, Robinson said. This can give the impression that parts of campus are darker than they should be.
Campus Safety director Stan Skipworth said via email that Campus Safety “continues to use a variety of programming to mitigate the opportunity for crime to occur on the campuses” such as security cameras, body cameras, GPS devices for tracking criminals and an expanded training program for officers.
Pomona is no stranger to thefts, particularly within residence halls. It experienced waves of thefts in April 2018 and again in April 2019. The average number of crimes per week have stayed relatively the same this academic year and the last, according to data provided by Skipworth.
“The one area overall that we saw an increase in for the first time in more than five years was in bicycle thefts,” he said. “And even though calls for service continue to increase, our dispatchers and officers are doing very good work to mitigate the opportunity for crime, and responding to reported crime and often apprehending those responsible.”