Music students reported thousands of dollars worth of stolen equipment to University and Metropolitan police this week.
Several students said they returned from winter break to find their Phillips Hall lockers broken into and their instruments gone.
The lockers were stripped of their combination locks and left with dents that showed forced entry, students said. Students rent the lockers from GW and use their own combination locks to secure them.
Sophomore Sydney Solow said she lost a viola, two bows and a set of strings she estimates are worth $3,000 in total.
“It’s like losing a child. Instruments are very personal and hard to replace,” she said.
Solow said about 14 other instruments were stolen, including violins and trumpets students use for lessons in the music department.
Senior John Schwartz said the music department confirmed that about 15 instruments were stolen. Music department officials were unable to provide a total.
UPD Director Dolores Stafford said seven students have reported missing instruments but she is not sure of the total value of stolen goods or exactly how many instruments were stolen.
Schwartz said his violin and bow, which he estimated at $7,000, were stolen. Students said this is not the first time instruments have been stolen from lockers.
“This time last year two girls had two flutes stolen out of the lockers, and the University didn’t seem to do much,” Solow said.
Stafford said although there have been some previous instances of theft in the music department, none have been this severe.
Solow said she is angry with UPD for the way it is handling the incident.
“I was crying about losing the instruments, and when UPD took my report they made me feel horrible,” Solow said.
She said UPD officers gave her “dirty” looks and asked her why she would leave her instruments on campus.
“They don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to carry it around,” Solow said.
Stafford said she had no knowledge of how the victims were questioned, and UPD is currently investigating the thefts.
Music Department Chair Laura Youes said she is working with UPD and MPD to investigate what happen as soon as possible.
“We don’t have a lot of the facts in yet, and we are trying to help the students,” Youes said.
“Whoever stole it must have had a GWorld to even get in the building, but once you are in you can exit inconspicuously,” Solow said. “Dr. Youes is trying to do everything she can, but we are all very upset.”
Solow said Youes has been trying to get cameras installed in the music department, located in the basement of Phillips Hall, to prevent theft. She added that the Youes has been unsuccessful in convincing the University to install the cameras and was “extremely” angry about the thefts.
Stafford said she did not recall any proposal for a security survey of the music department.
“We are currently proposing to upgrade security in the department, but I don’t think there has been any request for a security survey in the past,” Stafford said.
Stafford said departments can request UPD to survey an area and determine whether changes are needed.
Stafford said no padlock is completely safe and that UPD cannot patrol constantly. She said the building was open during vacation and an individual could have entered at any time except evening hours.
There is no way for UPD officers patrolling the building to know which lockers are supposed to have locks, she said.
Solow said musical instruments appreciate in value and are therefore very precious commodities.
“I am insured, but the insurance company does not buy us new instruments,” she said. “It takes a long time to find one that suits you.”
Stafford said she does not know if the University will compensate students for lost instruments and Risk Management will decide the matter.
In the meantime, Solow said she is borrowing instruments from professors for class.
“It’s a huge problem because I am a music minor and have no instruments,” she said.