GW defends security after burglary string

After a string of daytime burglaries in residence halls over the past two weeks, the University’s top security officials defended GW’s relatively light security procedures compared to other city schools.

The burglaries of at least 10 electronics in three residence halls have prompted GW’s top security administrator and University Police Chief Kevin Hay to say students need to be more vigilant, keep doors closed from strangers and prevent “tailgating” into their halls.

Most residence halls do not have guards during the daytime – compared to schools such as New York University that station guards in all buildings 24 hours a day – and some don’t even have them at night.

Laptops were stolen from three unlocked rooms in JBKO and Fulbright halls Jan. 31, and a man allegedly stole five laptops, two iPads and a Wii game from multiple rooms in Ivory Tower before UPD officers arrested him the week before.

Hay and Darnell said schools like NYU and Temple University in Philadelphia are in more crime-heavy areas than GW, and added that the burglaries on Foggy Bottom are not the result of a lack of security.

“You’re sort of comparing apples to oranges,” Darnell said. “It’s not a true comparison to compare what NYU is doing versus what GW is doing.”

But in the Annual Security and Fire Safety Reports, UPD recorded almost seven times as many burglaries as Temple in 2011 – the latest data available – and nearly twice as many incidents as neighboring Howard University and Northeastern University in Boston. NYU surpassed GW’s 39 cases with 53 burglaries.

Over the last week, GW posted signs on residence halls asking students to prevent others from follow them into locked buildings. The University also reminded students in a Jan. 31 alert to lock their doors at all times and call UPD when strangers enter and ask for someone who does not live there.

“Ivory Tower is a safe residence hall if students do what they need to do,” Darnell said. “We’re not trying to blame the students and make them the primary people for security, but they do have a responsibility.”

Hay said he did not believe halls needed additional security, but that the University reviews the procedures “from time to time.”

“Ivory Tower is a busy residence hall, but we’re not to the point where that needs 24-hour coverage,” Hay said. “A lot of the time, it’s polite students holding the door for someone they think is another student and other times, they’re bringing in a bona fide thief with a rap sheet.”

When asked which residence halls were guarded and at what times of the day, Hay declined to comment, though he released that information in fall 2011. He added that the level of deployments changes occasionally, like when GW amp up its police force around inauguration last month.

The University employs 90 student entrance monitors and 21 security officers who work in each of the two dozen residence halls, Hay said. He added that the University has assigned students to monitor 10 more residence halls this year.

The Hatchet found that out of 19 undergraduate residence halls surveyed Feb. 2, just Potomac House and Thurston Hall had guards stationed at 3 p.m. Eleven halls had guards at 10 p.m. Potomac and Thurston require students to present photo identification 24 hours a day, and all non-student guests must sign in at the front desk.

“In general, during the day we don’t have a security guard so we don’t have to worry about using our GWorlds except for getting into the elevator,” Torie Hayes, a senior living in South Hall, said. “I think it’s pretty common for one person to use their GWorld and let others in.”

She added that once security guards go on duty at night, they “are very diligent about checking IDs.”

UPD tightened access to residence halls in October 2011, when a man unlawfully entered City Hall and attempted to sexually assault a female student. Guards were stationed at more halls, and a year after the change, burglaries dropped to 39 reported cases in 2011 compared to 71 in 2010.

Monitors at residence halls like Ivory Tower, City Hall, Guthridge Hall and South Hall have required photo identification eight hours a night since September – when the University pledged to crack down on incidents where non-students borrowed GWorlds.

Hay said the University recently added electronic locks to the doors of individual rooms in Munson and Lafayette halls, which require GWorlds to unlock. UPD plans to add more electronic systems in the future.

Security personnel at Boston University cover entrances in more than two-thirds of residence halls 24 hours a day, according to the university’s website.

Northeastern University also has 24-hour security guards, who swipe individual identification cards before they let students enter buildings. Residents must sign in all guests, including parents. Rachel Shanley, a third-year student at Northeastern, said to bypass guards, “you pretty much have to run in.”

Monitors at NYU require students to sign in short-term guests, who must leave identification cards with the guards while they are in the residence halls. Students can only admit three guests in one night, spokesman Philip Lentz said.

Fordham University students must sign in guests after 5 p.m., and guests must leave by 3 a.m., unless they have applied for an overnight pass a day in advance. Guests must be the same gender as their hosts, even if guests are siblings, at the Jesuit college.

Still, some students try to get around the school’s attempts to prevent unauthorized entry. Fordham freshman Jessie Roberts said people sneak into halls by “flashing IDs with the wrong number on them or sneaking in through first floor windows.”

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