Theft is a huge problem at Williams. Last year, thefts accounted for 60 of 67 reported crimes. “Far and away, theft is the biggest crime,” said Assistant Director of Security David Boyer.
This fall, larceny has plagued the college community. “The start of the year is normally high [in thefts], but this year is higher,” Boyer said.
Last week, $80 and a laptop computer were stolen from Jason Carini ’02. Carini left his room on Fayerweather 1 unlocked for an hour in the morning, and he returned to find the items missing.
Boyer said that thefts are most common in first year housing. “[The thieves] seem to focus on the first year buildings,” he said.
“This past week we had a trend all over campus of sign theft,” added Boyer. The Taconic Golf Course sign, the Perry House plaque, and 2 photos, one of the 1970-71 squash team and the other of the 1971-72 squash team, were stolen.
Boyer said the signs were probably stolen by students from other schools as “souvenirs” of Williams. “These sort of things seem to be in [a different] category than other thefts,” Boyer said.
Yet Boyer implied that the laptop and sign thefts might be related. “The recent rash of thefts probably points back to another college, and we’re looking into that,” Boyer said.
Recent thefts are minor in comparison with a more serious wave of related larcenies before classes in September.
According to Meg Ting ’00, the VCR in the Williams C common room was stolen during First Days. “One of my frosh caught someone, not a Williams student, trying to steal his Nintendo 64,” Ting added.
The thief successfully stole a Nintendo 64 from Poker Flats. “Someone came in, detached all the controllers from the Nintendo 64 and left them here, taking only the system. They also switched the game and took Mario Kart,” Laura Moberg ’99 said.
A 27 inch color television was stolen from Perry resident Scott Snyder ’99. “Basically even if I’d been here I probably couldn’t have done anything,” said Snyder, explaining that the television was in an unlocked common room.
All of the thefts were reported to Security, and were investigated. According to Boyer, Security apprehended a suspect. “We brought him down here to the Security Office,” Boyer said. He added that two students positively identified the suspect as the thief.
Yet, Boyer said the Williamstown Police department decided not to press charges. “They didn’t press any charges. They turned the person loose,” Boyer said.
Williamstown Chief of Police Michael Kennedy told a different story. He said that College Security caught the suspect, the boyfriend of a Williams student, in a common room with a VCR. They called the police to arrest him, yet Kennedy said that there was not enough evidence to arrest.
“Nobody can say we don’t arrest people who should be arrested, but he was not a qualified candidate,” he said. “[The VCR] wasn’t in his vehicle. It wasn’t even in his possession. There was absolutely no evidence whatsoever to bring a court case on the individual,” Kennedy explained.
This tension between Security and the Police exists in many larceny cases.
Police Chief Kennedy said that most thefts on the Williams College campus are reported only to Security. Security faxes the information to the Police Department, but faxed complaints often go uninvestigated.
“I’m not interested in faxes. We got larceny complaints, a lot of them. We just file them,” Kennedy said. “To be perfectly honest, we’re not going to investigate anything that comes over fax.”
Kennedy said students should report directly to the Police if they want Police assistance. “You have to report it to us,” he said. “If I get enough complaints, people coming forward, that’s our business. A bunch of stuff coming through the fax â€“ we really don’t care about that.”
Kennedy implied that the Police Department is the more logical place to report thefts. “It’s up to you. You have to ask yourselves where you want to go, Security or Police. I mean, if I had a fire, I’d call the Fire Department,” he said.
Boyer agreed that Williams Security cannot handle cases alone. “We’re not a law enforcement agency,” Boyer said.
Boyer explained that Security can investigate cases and report them to the police for legal intervention. “We don’t try and handle them ourselves. We try to do an investigation in conjunction with the police,” he said.
Cooperation is also possible in reporting the crime. “I think it’s best for students to report to both agencies,” Boyer said. “We do forward all theft reports to the Police Department.”
Boyer added that students tend to relate better to Security. “I think a lot of students feel more comfortable with us than with the Police, so there probably are a few barriers for the Police Department,” he said. It can also be difficult for the police to carry out work at Williams. “Williams is a unique community and it’s probably hard for the Police Department to come in here and interview students and conduct an investigation,” Boyer said.
“What we’re asking students to do is record all serial numbers on property, keep a list of that, and try and take away the opportunity for crime by securing rooms and securing bicycles,” Boyer said.