Thievery at King’s: EST investigation reveals broken door on campus

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Nearly two weeks ago, an unidentified man accessed the 5th floor of The King’s College campus and stole a laptop and a cell phone belonging to a young female student, who asked to remain unnamed. This is the first incident of thievery from a non-King’s person in the two years since King’s moved from its former location in the Empire State Building. The incident  has led to heightened security measures on campus.

Curious as to how the suspect accessed one of the most secure floors on campus, I started asking around and used my notes to retrace his steps. It appears that the suspect entered at 50 Broadway, rode the elevator to the 5th floor and slipped through an unlocked door by the faculty offices. From there, he rounded three corners, grabbed the computer and phone that were charging on a table and left the way he came. He never passed security agents at the 52 or 56 Broadway entrances.

Typically, this 5th floor door by faculty offices is locked, accessible only by code and reserved for staff and faculty. But during my reporting, I found that the door, just feet away from the elevator doors, wasn’t locking at all. I reported it to Dean of Students, David Leedy, who assured me it would be investigated and repaired immediately. “We will do whatever is in our power to make sure this never happens again,” he said. He later confirmed that the door had a jammed cylinder. “The problem is now remedied,” he said.

The student told the Tribune that she left her computer and phone to charge while she left to meet with a friend. She returned 40 minutes later and her belongings were missing, but admitted that at first, she wasn’t concerned. “I thought it was a prank,” she said. But half an hour later, when her items still weren’t returned, she started looking. Unfortunately, it was too late. As computer tracking software would later reveal, her laptop and iPhone were at 185th street in the Bronx. Though the student was disappointed with her loss and the school’s policy, which doesn’t hold it responsible for stolen goods, she said she was glad it didn’t happen during finals and chose not to file a police report.

The biggest question is how the suspect slipped past security. Security staff told me they believe he got in and out by pretending to be a student enrolled in a youth program at 50 Broadway, so they didn’t think twice about letting him in. Although in the past, others have reported this young man for trying to access other floors, this is the first time he has been associated with missing items. Security assured me they are on the lookout for him and prepared to apprehend.

This experience has led to tighter campus security. Leedy explained that the school is only directly in charge of security at the 56 Broadway entrance. For the other three entrances, the school relies on security provided by building management. He said the security company has responded positively to concerns surrounding this incident and promised to tighten screening measures. He added that King’s may add a second turnstile by the lobby elevators in the near future and security card readers to those 5th floor entrances by the start of next semester.

For now, students who choose to use the side entrance will have to start showing their I.D. card before accessing elevators. Sophomore, Caroline Ratcliffe said she’s happy about this. “Before we got carded, anyone could come in,” she said. “[They could] follow me to the sixth floor, dress like a college student...and no one would say anything.”

Administrative Director for Student Development, Megan Phelps, said the incident reveals the high level of trust on campus. “We sign the Honor Code promising not to lie, cheat or steal,” she said. Yet, she pointed out, “In the event that someone has crept onto campus, keep in mind they haven’t signed that Honor Code.”

In the wake of the event, junior, Katie Howell admitted to changing her own habits. Even though she doesn’t worry about classmates stealing her belongings, “I think twice before leaving my laptop [now],” she said. “Before it wasn’t a thought.”

Leedy said students can help keep the campus safe by watching their personal belongings, reporting suspicious characters who ask questions (especially about technology) and using the side entrance as much as possible.

“Our best protection is our own people,” he said.

CampusTiffany Owens