Two students are missing about $1,300 worth of property allegedly stolen from Somers Hall at the Mount Vernon Campus by a maintenance worker last semester.
Four Somers Hall residents suspect the maintenance worker, who had keys to all rooms in the residence hall, stole more than $3,000 worth of property from their rooms.
Freshman Kate Nicholson and her roommate freshman Erin Raub, who did not file a UPD report, were the only students to recover their stolen property from the man, who they knew as “Marlin.” After freshman Ben Davidowitz filed a report with the University Police Department Nov. 15 for $250 in cash that was stolen from his room, the man was fired and barred from campus, according to UPD.
The maintenance worker was fired by Aramark, and then UPD barred him from campus. He has not been charged, and UPD considers the case closed.
“When he was terminated, we barred him because of his alleged or potential involvement in that case,” UPD Director Dolores Stafford said. “He was terminated. He’s barred from campus. That’s what we care about. The case is closed.”
The maintenance worker has not been charged because there is insufficient proof that he committed the thefts, UPD Dolores Stafford said.
“The subject did not have any stolen property in his possession and there were no eye witnesses or physical evidence to prove that he stole the property,” Stafford said in an e-mail
But two of the students said they saw the man enter a resident’s room without a maintenance request.
Nicholson said the worker asked her once in late November if Davidowitz was in his room. She said she told him that Davidowitz was not there. Later Nicholson said she saw the maintenance worker go into Davidowitz’s room with a key. But when she knocked on the door, she got no answer.
“That’s a big heads-up,” Nicholson said. “You know, (something’s wrong) if no one answers the door.”
Davidowitz said he later could not find $400 he had in his drawer to buy train tickets. He said he had not requested maintenance work. Soon after Davidowitz filed a UPD, which indicates $250, not $400, was stolen.
Mount Vernon Executive Dean Grae Baxter said that security problems like this have been rare in her five years at Mount Vernon and the campus is very safe.
“Most of the Aramark (workers) have worked here for quite a long time, and we have a community of trust,” Baxter said.
Aramark Manager David Weir could not be reached for comment.
Baxter said students should know their boundaries.
“There’s a line you have to draw because they have a job and you’re a student,” Baxter said. “At some point that line has to be drawn.”
Davidowitz said he had never been concerned about security on the campus before.
“I never felt unsafe. I was just pissed off my stuff was stolen,” Davidowitz said.
Stafford said that UPD can do nothing to recover the stolen property.
“Just like any other police department in the country, there are times when we are able to solve crimes and some crimes go unsolved,” she wrote. “There are times when you can prove the person’s involvement but the stolen property is never recovered.”
A UPD Nov. 30 report that lists two people reporting thefts, Stafford said. But that report was filed by UPD under suspicious activity with no list of stolen items.
Freshman Tanner Blonquist said the maintenance worker would regularly watch students to see when they were away from their rooms.
Blonquist said the maintenance worker once woke him up when the worker entered his room. The worker went through his drawer, while Bonquist laid in bed, and then walked out, Blonquist said. Later Blonquist said his wallet and a North Face jacket came up missing from his room.
Blonquist said he lost a digital camera in what he said was a previous theft, for a total loss of more than $1,000.
Nicholson said she and Raub had jewelry stolen by the maintenance worker. Nicholson had a ring and necklace valued at $1,800 taken. Raub had a ring, valued at $600, stolen.
Nicholson said she didn’t report it to UPD because she and the maintenance worker had been friends and she thought she could recover the stolen goods. He was from a “rough background,” Nicholson said, and she did not want him to lose his job.
“(I didn’t tell UPD) because I wanted to use the fact that I could still get him fired, that if I would keep quiet if he gave my stuff back,” Nicholson said. “If I went to UPD, then he might deny everything, and then I wouldn’t get my stuff back.”
Nicholson said when she called and confronted the maintenance worker, he, “Marlin,” said that he knew something “fishy” was going on and that he could “try to get back (her) stuff.” The maintenance worker returned Nicholson’s and her roommate’s jewelry, and said he got it from one of the other employees.
Nicholson and Raub were the only students to receive their property back.
Blonquist was unhappy with the outcome.
“As soon as the University got involved, he got fired and there was no chance of us getting our stuff back,” said Blonquist, who now keeps his valuables in a safe in his room. “That shows you what you get for getting the University involved.”
Nicholson said she is concerned that some maintenance workers have keys to residents’ rooms.
“You can never know (what happens in your room). I just try not think about it,” she said.
-Russ Rizzo and Kate Stepan contributed to this report.
This article appeared in the February 7, 2002 issue of the Hatchet.