May 2, 2003

CUPD Warns Campus Of Organized Thefts

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Last week, the Cornell University Police Department (CUPD) and the Ithaca Police Department (IPD) issued a warning to the University community about a series of on and off-campus thefts that appear to be related.


The reports began on April 19, when CUPD officers investigated two separate theft reports from a fraternity party held at 1 Forest Park Lane. Stolen objects included wallets, cash, credit cards, ID cards and a cell phone.

At the same time, officers inspected several off-campus university-affiliated buildings, including 230 Willard Way, 102 The Knoll and 106 West Ave.

In addition, reports were issued from 525 Stewart Ave., Bartels Hall scuba cage, Teagle Hall locker room, and Fiji fraternity.

“So far, we haven’t been fortuitous. We contacted the city police department because the thefts spill over to areas adjacent to campus. It is important to liaison with them,” said Sgt. Philip D. Mospan, training coordinator and acting commander of major investigations of the CUPD.

All of the crimes are similar: they appear to be organized, and each theft targeted events where people would be likely to lose track of their personal belongings.

“They are looking for a quick hit. People leave things unattended–these are crimes of opportunity,” Mospan said. The perpetrators are suspected to be between 17 and 25 years of age, so that they can hang around campus, “and move about without bringing suspect to themselves,” Mospan said.

There tends to be an increase in crime at the beginning and end of each semester. Crimes especially spike in the libraries on campus. Last week, CUPD received calls from both Olin and Uris libraries with reported thefts.

During study week, “students are worried about their tests, and they focus on what’s in front of them. They have tunnel vision and they lose track of the tangible things around them,” Mospan said.

‘False Security’

In the libraries, students feel a “false sense of security,” Mospan said. “All it takes is a short trip to the restroom or the cafeteria.”

“It is easy for someone to drop his jacket and pick up a wallet along with it,” Mospan added.

Mospan reminds people to harden their targets, and reduce the opportunity for these crimes: “Never take more than what you need to these events, and do not leave your belongings unattended.”

If you decide to leave possessions in the car, put them in the trunk, out of sight. Otherwise, if the object is in the front or back seat, “there is opportunity for a smash-and-run,” Mospan said.

Mospan final words of advice for students were simple.

“Just do all the same kinds of things your mom told you before you left for college and you’ll be fine.”

Archived article by Jessica Liebman