When Darla Mallein, associate professor of social sciences, returned to her office last Thursday afternoon around 1 p.m. for an advising appointment, she did not expect to see someone rummaging through her raincoat.
“I knew something was up,” Mallein said. “I asked him, ‘May I help you?’”
The “guest” said that he was looking for someone, and Mallein believed that he may have needed to be in the English department, so she walked him across the building.
“I ran back and looked in my office,” Mallein said. “He had moved my purse and my billfold was gone.”
Mallein spotted the alleged suspect as he was walking out of the English office and flagged him down, asking if he had taken her wallet. She contacted campus police and tried to persuade him to wait for their arrival. He then promptly left out of the office, Mallein said.
“He got $240 I had in my wallet,” Mallein said. “Lucky for me, he did pitch my billfold into a recycling bin on the first floor. The great custodians we have in Plumb Hall found that for me, and I at least got back my driver’s license and all my credit cards.”
This incident is just one in a series of thefts that occurred this semester. Since the beginning of January, campus has been hit with a total of 16 thefts, according to Chris Hoover, director of campus police. This is a dramatic increase from past years, when the amount of thefts for this time frame was only seven in 2012, and six in 2011.
Another theft occurred in the Sunflower office, ESU’s yearbook. A new camera and additional equipment was taken from their office sometime over Spring Break. The Sunflower staff estimates that around $3,000 worth of equipment was stolen.
“Officers are aware of the trend,” Hoover said. “Many of the recent thefts have been associated with items being left unattended. I contacted the department of Res Life and asked that they make notification to residents of the halls regarding awareness and precautionary measures.”
One of the most recent cases was a theft in the art department’s art annex, which was broken into just last week. All the possessions from students’ lockers were dumped on the floor, some of it being used to transport the stolen goods off of the property. According to Patrick Martin, associate professor and interim chair of the art department, around $1,500 worth of university equipment was stolen, in addition to students’ materials and equipment.
“It’s just weird – it’s real strange,” said Joe Sircoulomb, senior glass major and victim of the art annex theft. “Our campus is usually so quiet and safe. If I went to any other school, I wouldn’t be afraid of leaving my stuff out, but I guess I should (be afraid) now.”
Hoover said the list of items being taken is “across the board,” including bicycles, tools, wallets, cash, electronics, cameras and purses. He declined comment on possible suspects – whether they be male or female, or working independently or in a group – because it may “negatively impact investigatory activities.”
In order to prevent theft, Hoover said to secure doors, not to leave belongings unattended and to report any suspicious behavior. If you have any information about the recent thefts or burglaries or suspect that you are a victim, contact Police and Safety at 341-5337.