Three suspects believed to be responsible for a ring of laptop thefts were caught during a detailed sting operation by the University Police Department over winter break.
UPD Chief Kevin Hay said one suspect was turned over to the Metropolitan Police Department, the second has not yet been charged and the third managed to escape. All three have been barred from GW property.
Hay said the theft ring is still being investigated, but UPD is certain the suspects are responsible for at least one stolen laptop and were seen in Gelman Library during other thefts.
The suspects were caught when plainclothes officers were assigned to monitor suspicious behavior in Gelman, after multiple unattended laptops were stolen.
The officers observed a group of suspects unaffiliated with GW in the building – two males and one female. A review of security camera images confirmed all three of the individuals were at Gelman on days when laptops were reported stolen.
“On previous days, we put out bait laptops and monitored them from a distance,” Hay said. “Once this crew was identified, our plainclothes officers monitored the entranceway specifically for these three suspects in particular.”
The suspects attempted to enter Gelman Dec. 16 at about 5:30 p.m. but were denied entrance because they lacked GWorld cards. UPD officers detained them as they left the library. Hay said they might have previously entered without GWorlds while staff was dealing with multiple patrons at the entrance desk.
While officers were gathering identification, one of the male suspects ran down H Street toward the Foggy Bottom Metro station, prompting an officer to pursue him on foot.
An officer grabbed the fleeing suspect, but lost his footing and fell, and the suspect escaped.
One of the two suspects who remained on scene already had an outstanding arrest warrant from a probation violation related to a previous robbery arrest, and was subsequently handed over to MPD. Later, a search on the suspect revealed he was linked to an earlier laptop theft at Gelman.
UPD is awaiting final arrest warrant approval for the suspect who escaped on the basis of assault on a police officer.
“We know who the suspect is and his place of residence,” Hay said. “If he returns to GW, GWPD will arrest him.”
The female suspect has not yet been charged because she had no outstanding warrants or stolen property in her possession at the time she came into contact with UPD.
Hay added that UPD has shared photos of the suspects with police at other universities in the District, and is continuing to investigate the theft ring.
Hay has previously said Gelman is the third-most common location of campus theft in 2010, based on a review of UPD’s Investigative Case File. Since it was the location with the “most discernible pattern of thefts,” UPD set up plainclothes officers in the building.