UPD arrests suspect for residence hall thefts

A five-day long crime wave in Ivory Tower and New Hall ended Wednesday afternoon when the University Police Department apprehended a juvenile male in the Medical Faculty Associates building on Pennsylvania Avenue.

UPD stepped up its investigation Wednesday afternoon to catch the alleged thief, who they identified from residence hall security cameras and eyewitness accounts. Students reported ten crimes – nine in Ivory Tower and one in New Hall – since Sept. 7.

The man is not being named because he is a juvenile. The suspect did not confess to any crime but was arrested by UPD and transported to the 2nd district Metropolitan Police Department station.

UPD put three investigative officers and several patrol officers on the case over the last few days, UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said. Officers were called to Ivory Tower Tuesday night after they had eight suspicious person reports in about as many minutes. The suspect escaped through an alarmed stairway, which UPD later reviewed from security footage, Stafford said. Stafford estimated he may have been in the building for as many as two hours Tuesday evening.

When the man was apprehended Wednesday, he was sitting at a desk in the MFA building, rifling through its contents, wearing the “I Love D.C.” shirt described in an earlier crime alert.

“My investigative team was focusing on very little else other than this,” Stafford said in a phone interview Wednesday night.

Before the suspect was apprehended, Stafford drafted a special crime alert with the suspect’s photo and description that was to be sent out late Wednesday afternoon. When officers told Stafford they thought they apprehended the suspect, she quickly rescinded the alert.

It is unclear how he gained entrance into the two residence halls’ main entrances but he was able to enter several rooms that were likely left unlocked.

“It concerns me because I constantly see students hold the door for people they don’t know are residents of the building,” Stafford said. “Unfortunately, parents have done a good job of raising kids to be polite. We need to reprogram people that they’re on an urban campus and it isn’t the right thing to do to hold the door for somebody.”

Junior Tom O’Brien’s room may have been hit the hardest. Two of his roommates had electronics, a backpack and clothing stolen. Senior Eric Woodard returned to his Ivory quad Sept. 7 and found MPD talking to his roommates. Initially, he did not believe anything was stolen when he saw his room was generally intact. But when he opened a rarely-used backpack, his iPod and digital camera were missing.

The alleged thief gained entrance into the 10th-floor Ivory quad after he told Woodard’s roommate he was the cousin of a resident.

Woodard, who said he has been a victim of theft in the past, said that he hopes the University pays for the items.

“I became a very ‘live and let live’ person,” Woodard said. “It would be nice if someone paid for it but I don’t look for handouts in life.”

The spate of crimes, the second of its kind in two years, raises issues of residence hall security, which which Woodard said is insufficient.

“Even in the summer, people could just walk in and follow somebody in,” Woodard said. “Why is there a desk there and nobody is working?”

Stafford said staffing issues preclude her from having security at the entrance of each residence hall. Potomac House and Thurston Hall are the only two residence halls with 24-hour security.

The University community was initially alerted to the crime wave when UPD sent out a blast e-mail Sept. 8, highlighting the rash of seven burglaries in 24 hours in the 23rd Street building.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.