Campus sees theft increase this year

Students have reported 34 thefts to Security so far this semester, compared to 28 all of last year. Bicycles are the most commonly stolen item, while wallets, laptops and backpacks also frequent targets.

“My feeling is that we have spikes in theft and we are in the middle of one of those spikes now,” said David Boyer, assistant head of Security. According to daytime officer Robert Bleau, if the thefts were to continue at the current rate, the school could be looking at over 100 thefts by the end of the year.

Bleau and Boyer agreed that bike theft is the biggest problem. When bikes are left unsecured, they are easily taken, Bleau said, especially during the weekends. Often, students do not actually steal the bikes in order to keep them, but simply for transportation from one end of campus to another, finally leaving the bikes somewhere else.

“Taking other students’ bikes as personal transportation is a major problem with Williams students,” Boyer said, “especially late at night after parties. When caught, students laugh it off. They fail to see the serious nature, the inconvenience other students face, the time it takes Security to locate the bikes.”

Although many bikes are eventually returned, some are never found.

Bleau said that two of the bike thefts this year involved cables cut off locked bikes. This happens rarely, and only with high-quality bicycles, said Boyer.

The incidents are under investigation, and the perpetrators are thought to be town residents, according to Security.

Boyer said that groups of students commit most of the thefts on campus, and a significant number of thieves are caught.

He added that incidents like the one last year in which State University of New York – Albany students stole a number of laptops are uncommon; students from other colleges are rarely the perpetrators.

Most of the time, when students from other schools do steal from Williams students, it is a prank, or, as Boyer calls it, “college-associated rivalry theft.”

Boyer cited several incidents as examples of college-rivalry thefts, including one in which Trinity students stole various Williams banners and signs during a football game several years ago, and another in which a Bryant house composite picture was found at Amherst.

He explained that when items stolen from Williams are found at other schools, the colleges return the items, and vice versa.

During parties, it is easier for non-Williams students to enter buildings and steal items left unsecured. This is likely what occurred in the laptop incident at Brooks Late-Night earlier this fall, since it is assumed the thieves were probably not Williams students.

Towards the beginning of the year, there were various thefts from the storage rooms in dorms, Bleau said.

He added that it is difficult to monitor all of the storage areas, as they are left open much of the day for students to retrieve items. He hopes for a better and safer storage system in the future to avoid more theft.

Boyer also suggested that students take more precautions with their laptop computers.

This year, four laptops have been stolen, including the three at Brooks House during Late Night, and another was stolen a few weeks ago. Bleau said that students need to act carefully, as computers are “expensive items for replacing and major problems for students who get theirs stolen.”

Both officers said that an extremely high percentage of the incidents were thefts of opportunity.

“When a room is left unlocked, a window is up, a bike or something else is unsecured in a public place, the victim of theft has unknowingly created an opportunity,” Boyer said.

Bleau added that by leaving a door open or a valuable item in a common room, students make themselves more susceptible to theft. “Especially towards the weekend,” he said, “you don’t know who is in your building. You are taking a chance.”

Security recommends getting a sturdy lock for bicycles. Bleau specifically recommends the Master U or the Kryptonite locks, and suggests getting thick cables for attaching the locks.

Also, Bleau suggested that students rethink the utility of having bikes. Often, he said, bikes go unused for three or four years. Bikes should also be registered with the town of Williamstown, as registration facilitates the quick recovery of stolen bicycles.

The Security department also offers free engraving for laptops; an identification that they hope will make recovering stolen laptops less difficult.

Bleau said that many first-year students have taken advantage of the engravings, and hopes that by the time they are seniors, most Williams students will do the same. He also added that laptop locks are an excellent idea.

Boyer emphasized that students should register high-value items with Security and read the pamphlets available in the Security office containing suggestions for securing valuable possessions.