An unknown subject stole two student backpacks and a first aid kit while students in Conservation Biology 335 were conducting research near Robertson Athletic Complex on Monday, Sept. 8. Some of the stolen items included electronics, eyeglasses and a clarinet.
The students set their backpacks off from the road but spent more than an hour away from their property.
“We were going to leave them right on the open but we thought let’s put them a little bit out of the way, still not thinking that anybody would be on that road,” said Christian Umbach, ’15. “We put them behind this log, kind of on top of these tarps. They weren’t completely out of sight but we thought it was enough so that if people were driving by they would have to stop and look to see if anything was there.”
Casey Bradshaw-Wilson, visiting assistant professor of environmental science, is the professor of the conservation biology class but was not with the students for their lab work Monday afternoon. Bradshaw-Wilson has been a professor at Allegheny for two years and has never experienced any type of theft during class research outings to Robertson.
“I’ve taken classes in the field every semester I’ve worked here,” said Bradshaw-Wilson. “I never would have even thought, you know, to keep an eye on it that well, being that close to the bags.”
According to what she heard from her students, Bradshaw-Wilson said the students were not more than a few hundred feet away from their property during their research.
“I’ll be very honest, I think if I could do it over again I would have kept my backpack with me, knowing I had something valuable in it,” said Umbach. “I think there is some responsibility on my part. I think in the future it will cause me to be more careful.”
According to Jeffrey Schneider, director of campus security, students at Allegheny are too trusting. Thefts on campus are a routine crime because students often leave personal property unattended.
“Don’t leave stuff out in the open, if even for a minute,” said Schneider. “If you’re going down the hall to use the restroom, lock the door. That’s why we get calls occasionally to let [students] in because they locked their keys inside. But that’s a good practice really, just lock your door. Sometimes the very person you shouldn’t be trusting is in that hallway, human nature being what it is.”
Both Schneider and Todd Johnson, a campus security officer, commented on how often they see students leave property unattended.
“It really surprises me the amount of stuff people leave sitting on tables and desks,” said Johnson.
A large portion of the student body, and even some professors, leave laptops, backpacks and other personal items unattended often and usually do not think about possible repercussions.
“I still don’t think about it,” said Bradshaw-Wilson.
Allegheny receives numerous visitors to campus every day, in addition to its already populous student body. Schneider and Johnson noted how often people walk through campus and how easily items could be taken.
An overtrusting student body is not uncommon on college campuses, according to Schneider and Johnson, who have both worked at other universities previously.
Now that Umbach has personally experienced theft on campus, he is going to try to be more careful about leaving property out in the open.
“The decision to leave our stuff there was definitely based off of a lot of trust, a mentality that stuff like this doesn’t really happen,” said Umbach. “However, I am not a pessimistic person by any means and it doesn’t make me hate the world or think its a worse place.”
In addition to losing his clarinet, Umbach also lost some school work, including his environmental science homework, joking about the latter.
“I redid that today. It took me some extra time but I might have corrected some things so it might have been a blessing in disguise,” said Umbach.
According to Johnson, generally students are good about not taking other students’ property. So when theft does occur, students are shocked.
“Students become accustomed to leaving their stuff lying around like that and nothing does happen,” said Schneider. “Now all of a sudden something does and why?”
In an effort to raise security measures, security cameras are currently being installed in Parking Lots 2 and 4 because those lots are often targeted areas of crime. Schneider hopes to install more security cameras throughout the rest of campus in an effort to increase security measures.
Student awareness about personal property is an important part in keeping the campus safe according to Schneider.
“If you have personal property out make sure it’s secure,” said Schneider. “If you have anything you don’t want to lose, keep it in your locker, keep it in your room.”