Wave of thefts on campus leads to arrests in Langwith college

Derwent at night

Two men have been arrested on campus following a series of thefts of laptops and other high value items from student accommodation blocks.

On February 7, the night of Viking Raid, two men were apprehended in a “covert operation” carried out by campus security after being caught trying to gain access to a Langwith block. One man was detained and handed over to police while a second was arrested using information from security.

One of the infiltrators has been remanded in custody while the second was released on bail.

Despite a 36% decrease in crime levels on campus, from 243 incidents in 2006 to 156 in 2007, the past six weeks have seen an unprecedented number of thefts occurring from students’ rooms. Langwith and Derwent have been the two worst affected colleges, with 17 laptops allegedly stolen from Derwent rooms over a period of several weeks.

The spree of offences are believed to be for the most part the work of two individuals, thought to be the two arrested on campus.

Residents of Derwent B and C blocks were both victims of the thieves, who appear to target students randomly. One student living in C block, who wished to remain anonymous, described an incident earlier this term, when the two gained access to the upstairs corridor.

She said: “They started coming up the stairs, so I asked them who they were, and they made up some random person that they came to see, a person that didn’t even exist. I told them that we knew everyone in the block and that person didn’t exist. They said they thought this was Alcuin, and although we told them to go back out and down the road instead, they went round and off to B block.”

Derwent B block was broken into later that week, when the thieves obtained access to the building through a downstairs window.

When asked to describe the intruders, the student said they were “dressed as typical chavs, wearing tracksuits and baseball caps. They were around 18 or 19, but they didn’t look like typical students.”
One student in Alcuin College has been the victim of what appears to be a targeted attack. The victim had both her laptop and her television stolen from her room on the first floor of block J2, while she was away for the weekend.

Although the student was not available for comment, witnesses said “her door has been bashed in, so when you push it, it just opens”. There were no signs of forced entry anywhere else in the building, even though the thief had to go through two security carded doors to get to the room on the first floor. Other residents in the flat knew nothing of the incident until it was discovered upon the student’s return.

The police, in conjunction with the University, are currently investigating the incident after interviewing the victim and her neighbours last Wednesday evening. The victim has temporarily left the University, allegedly because she has had difficulty sleeping due to anxiety related to the incident.

In response to the recent events, some students have begun to take security matters into their own hands. Derwent Bar Rep, Joe Rankin, has created the ‘Derwent Defence Force,’ (DDF) with the aim of keeping residences safe by organising student-lead security checks and patrols.

“The group was inspired really by a joke at first,” said Rankin, “but then after one night when several rooms close to mine were stolen from, I thought, ‘why not actually do something?’”
“The DDF hope to carry out random checks to make sure people are locking doors and that blocks are secure, and hold patrols on occasion,” Rankin added.

The creation of the group has raised concerns about student safety and the growth of ‘vigilante’ style volunteer groups on campus.

University-level initiatives are also underway to improve safety, including giving students lanyards to keep their keys with them at all times, and installing new locks in older colleges, such as Derwent and Langwith. YUSU are also planning campaigns to promote student safety across campus.

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