University Police received reports that outside visitors burglarized Lehman Hall in Governors Complex and Richmond Quadrangle in Ellicott Complex, both North Campus residence halls housing predominantly freshmen, early Monday morning.
The timing and locations of those burglaries were not mere coincidence, according to Deputy Chief of Police Joshua Sticht.
“The freshman dorms got targeted, not because the suspects necessarily knew there were freshmen living there, but because freshmen are just not that careful yet,” Sticht said. “This is their first time away from home so they’re not as careful, whereas upperclassmen are more careful about locking the doors and closing the windows on the first floor.”
Within an hour of hearing about the burglaries, UPD broadcasted a BOLO, or “be on the lookout,” to all the other police agencies in Erie County with a description of the suspects’ vehicle.
But in what Sticht described as “a good stroke of luck,” one of the Lehman Hall residents was awake and was able to thoroughly recount details of the burglary soon after the event.
“The student in Lehman that noticed the person trying to burglarize their dorm room suite called us right away,” Sticht said. “Even though the suspects fled, we have access to a really fantastic camera system here at UB. We’re past 2,000 cameras across the three campuses, so that night as the first officers were responding and interviewing the victims that live in Lehman, we were actually pulling a video to determine where the suspects fled.”
The burglaries in Richmond Quadrangle were not discovered until later in the morning. Sticht stated that his team is working to collect “some of the best forensic evidence,” ranging from tracking stolen credit card numbers and pulling video from stores where they were potentially used.
With an increase in blue light phones, technology and late-night bus routes to keep students safe over the years, UB’s safety measures are on par with other comparable universities. But Sticht doesn’t think these measures do not always prevent crime from taking place.
“These burglaries come in waves and are our biggest crime problem, at least in terms of numbers,” he said. “Our overall crime rate, though, is actually lower than a lot of other universities our size and our violent crime — which is what worries me the most — is very low, statistically almost non-existent when we’re talking about assaults or armed robberies,” Sticht said. “Generally, the campuses are very safe, but we don’t want to rely on that and make the fact that it’s been safe in the past convince us not to be vigilant about things around us.”
Sticht has found that student education is critical to prevent such burglaries. Especially at the beginning of the academic year, UB police officers often walk around the residence hallways. If they see an unlocked door with no one inside, they pull it closed, lock it and hang a safety message on the door to alert residents.
Looking ahead, Sticht warns that giving burglars the opportunity to commit a crime is what residents have the most control over.
“For crime to occur, there have to be three things: someone that’s willing to commit a crime, who has the means to commit a crime and the opportunity,” Sticht said. “The only one of those three we can affect is opportunity.”
University Police are now working on pulling videos from stores that were involved in credit card transactions, entering the stolen property into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), fixing locks on residence hall doors that may be broken and educating students on the importance of keeping their belongings secure.
Ria Gupta is an assistant news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ria Gupta is an assistant news/features editor at The Spectrum.