Five thefts in Wise Center, suspect under investigation

After a string of five thefts over a two-week period from the David V. Wise Sport and Fitness Center, security has a suspect.

Campus security stated that the suspect that is under investigation is 18-years-old, and was caught after he was reportedly seen going through bags in the area of the gym. The investigation is ongoing.

The first theft was reported on April 1 with a student reporting $30 missing from an unlocked locker in the men’s locker room at around 4 p.m. Three more thefts were reported, on April 6, 7 and 8.

According to Jeffrey Schneider, director of campus security, all the thefts were cash taken from unlocked lockers. The amount of money taken ranges from $30-$70. No other items were reported stolen according to Schneider.

It always seems like we have a rash of thefts all at once and then it disappears. We have had very little theft over the course of the year and then in one week’s time we had three or five thefts.

— Jeffrey Schneider

Schneider explained that based on the fact that only cash was stolen and the hours that the crimes were committed, that security suspected the suspect to be a high school age student.

“It leads me to believe that it’s younger suspects because older people know the value of credit cards,” Schneider said.

Schneider also said that reports of unauthorized access to the Wise Center have reached campus security by word of mouth.

“In talking to people, we hear that there’s a lot of high school students who go in and out…the hearsay is that they just walk through and there’s no one stopping them,” said Schneider.

The main desk at the front door of the Wise Center is supposed to be monitored by student workers during all hours of operation. However, due to issues in staffing, the desk can be left unattended, meaning that anyone who is not alloted access to the center can enter the building without being stopped.

Bill Ross, associate director of athletics and recreation services, said that two students are always scheduled to be at the desk. He said that at this time of year getting students to work the desk gets harder.

“This time of year is always problematic because of the time crunch, everyone having to get all their academic work that needs to be completed at the end of the school year, so its very difficult to get people to show up,” said Ross.

Ross also explained that this lack of staffing is part of the reason why the Wise Center will be switching to summer hours during finals week. Starting on April 29, the Wise Center will be closing at 8 p.m. during the week and at 4 p.m. on weekends.

“We try to keep those recreational opportunities available to anybody who wants to get over here at any time of the day or night,” said Ross. “But when it gets to the point where we cannot have proper staff then we got to reduce our hours.”

Both Ross and Schneider emphasized that the most effective way to prevent thefts is for students to lock up any valuables while they are exercising or refrain from bringing valuable items to the gym.

“The community members who use our facility, bring their locks and lock their stuff up and they don’t have nearly the number of incidents,” said Ross.

Ross explained that many unauthorized visitors to the Wise Center also come in through side doors and that there have been talks of alarming these doors to alert security. He said he also believes that cameras in the halls would act as a deterrent to potential thieves.

“I certainly believe it would deter people from doing that,” said Ross. “The issue here with this building is it’s such a wide open floor plan and that once you gain access past the front desk you can go anywhere.”

Allegheny has few security cameras on campus, as some students dislike the idea.

“I don’t think that it would help a lot,” said Evan Haines, ’17, a Wise Center monitor. “It would make students feel like they were under surveillance which is something I don’t want on my college campus.”

Though he supports the idea of cameras as a deterrent, Ross admitted that it would likely not help in catching suspected thieves, a feeling that was also convey shared by Schneider.

“You could only have them in common areas, obviously you couldn’t have them in the locker rooms or anything like that, so really in the hallway, seeing people walking in and out, the only thing you could surmise from a videotape, is that person authorized or a person of interest,” said Schneider.

Ross explained that these thefts typically come and go quickly and there’s often no way of knowing the cause.

“It always seems like we have a rash of thefts all at once and then it disappears. We have had very little theft over the course of the year and then in one week’s time we had three or five thefts.”

Schneider said that every theft is investigated by campus security but in the case of cash thefts there is little to go on because cash cannot be traced.