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Recent string of thefts hits Venema Aquatic Center

Photo by Anna Delph.
Photo by Anna Delph.

Attending a Christian college doesn’t necessarily mean your classmates will follow Christian values. “Thou shalt not steal” is one commandment that has been broken numerous times in recent weeks.

According to a campus safety department crime alert on Oct. 3, there have been six theft instances in the men’s locker room in the Venema Aquatic Center over the last three months.

Campus safety crime logs show that in five of the six instances, money was the only item reported missing from the lockers. In the one other incident, a pair of khaki shorts and underwear was stolen. The complainant, however, believes that may have been a prank.

William Corner, director of campus safety, said the thefts seem to be strictly money-based overall.

“In most of these cases, when it happens, the person goes into the locker, looks through people’s pockets, finds a wallet, removes the money and replaces the wallet,” Corner said. “So you could have a cell phone or credit cards, but none of that’s being taken — it’s just cash.

Corner noted that there is another similarity of the thefts:  none of these lockers were locked.

He said the lockers in the aquatic center are somewhat easy to see into.

“It’s not too hard for someone to walk through the locker room and look in the lockers and see property in the locker,” Corner said.

While the six thefts have taken place over three months, reported thefts in the Venema Aquatic Center have increased since the beginning of September. According to the campus safety crime logs, five of the six incidents occurred in September. Because of this, Corner decided it was best to send a crime alert to the public.

“Theft happened quite a few times in September,” Corner said. “That’s when we decided that we should just put a crime alert out to the community letting them know that we’ve been having a series of thefts from the locker room.”

Corner said there aren’t any leads on these cases, but since the locker rooms are almost always locked, it’s likely to be either a person with a student ID card to swipe in, or someone who is “tailgating” other people into locker rooms.

“That’s a common thing on campus,” Corner said. “When you go into a spot where there’s card access or it’s locked, it’s pretty common to have someone tailgate you in.”

Although there aren’t any suspect leads, Corner said there are preventative measures the college community can take.

“We’re encouraging people to lock their lockers,” Corner said. “Bring a padlock and lock it up, or don’t leave valuables in your locker — one or the other.

He said using a lock is the best thing to do, especially since none of the locked lockers have been broken into.

Corner also notes the importance of contacting campus safety after observing suspicious activity. He says many people see suspicious instances but choose not to let an official know.

“If you feel something is suspicious or not right,” Corner said, “a lot of times your instincts are correct — people just have to listen to their instincts.”

Corner said without a suspect description, it’s hard to find any leads. Campus safety has installed a camera outside the men’s locker room in hopes of gaining more information in case the thief returns in the future.

“Without witnesses,” Corner said, “it’s kind of one of those invisible crimes — you don’t know who’s doing it.”

Although the theft incidents are occurring during the same time frame of the bike larceny incidents, Corner said there is no connection between the two.

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