Aston Hall theft victims voice security concerns

Aston Hall theft victims expressed frustration this week, two weeks after several students returning from winter break discovered their computers had been stolen.

I was the first (roommate) back, and when I came up to my room it (the door) was bolted, junior Christopher Brick said. I realized that stuff was moved around, and my phone was missing.

Upon entering his room, Brick noticed his cordless phone and his laptop computer were stolen. When his roommate came back to school, he also realized his phone and his laptop computer were missing.

In addition, Brick said he found silverware out on the counter of the kitchen, which had been moved at the time of the robbery.

After his community facilitator reported the incident to University Police, they instructed Brick and his roommate to contact Metropolitan Police.

We haven’t heard anything since, Brick said.

The University is supposed to provide a certain amount of security, he said. They don’t even seem to care too much about the fact that people’s rooms were opened.

UPD Director Dolores Stafford said eight thefts were reported involving computers from Aston Hall.

Though Aston Hall recently became part of the GW residence hall system, Potomac Hospitality Service continues to manage the property.

Asif Ali Shah, property manager of the Aston, said he had been in contact with the UPD investigator handling the case.

According to a security report given to UPD, MPD dusted for fingerprints at some point after five incidents had been reported.

Stafford said UPD has some leads but declined to elaborate.

Several students said they were disappointed with the lack of communication they received from the University.

Matt Louderback lived in the Aston and experienced the theft of his laptop computer, as well as his Ethernet card and microphone.

Louderback said he had only left his room for a few days, and, when he came back, his computer was missing.

During the break, an independent contractor did come into each room to clean the building, said Sarah Evenson, community director for the Aston. The property manager’s staff accompanied the contractor, Evenson said.

I was only gone for four days, Louderback said. No cleaning lady should’ve been in there.

Louderback, who served as an Aston Hall Council representative, mentioned several concerns of Aston Hall residents.

The Aston still does not have a computer lab, Louderback said. Now not only do they feel far less secure about where they live, they have to walk eight blocks to go to a computer lab.

As a result of the incidents, Louderback said he felt unsafe living in the Aston and has since moved off campus and, according to the security report, is taking the semester off.

Sophomore Kara Marshall also expressed concern that she has not heard any information since reporting the theft of her computer.

I’m getting reimbursed by insurance, Marshall said. I figured the University would be pretty slow on working on that.

Evenson said GW is looking at reserving laptops for students who had their computers stolen.

We can’t talk about reimbursement until we know more about the situation, Evenson said.

But Alan Elias, president of the Residence Hall Association, said reimbursement remains a possibility.

No one has really come to us, but I think (reimbursement) is worth looking into, he said.

Christopher Brick said his roommate has hired a lawyer to seek reimbursement from GW.

According to the report, several other security concerns existed in the Aston at the conclusion of the semester. The report questioned the security of the key coder, which codes each individual room card. Residents of the Aston are given room cards rather than keys.

The report also doubted the security of a safe that housed all room keys.

Ali said the management company since has corrected any such problems.

We have changed everything, and hopefully, it will never happen again, he said.

Evenson said no changes have been made to security procedures.

We don’t forsee anything that needs to be changed at this moment, Evenson said. But if the investigation says something needs to be changed, we will do it.

Mark Levine, assistant dean of students, was unavailable for comment.

Though no students mentioned that they felt physically threatened living in the Aston, several mentioned concern for their belongings.

I don’t feel unsafe in a physical sense, Brick said. I feel uncomfortable leaving things around.

The staff told students to take home any valuables, Evenson said. Unfortunately, we don’t always know people’s intentions.

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