Since the end of January, Hofstra’s Department of Public Safety has received 15 separate reports of larceny, theft of personal property or attempted larceny from vehicles. They say the surge of these crimes has been identifiably caused by one male suspect on a bicycle.
“The last [claim] we had reported was the 15th of February. We think in 12 of the 15 cases the vehicles were left unlocked. We know for sure that nine [cars] were unlocked,” said Karen O’Callaghan, the director of Public Safety.
Of the 15 reported incidents, only one showed signs of forced entry. Richie Dupkin, a senior drama major, was alerted on Jan. 28 that his car window had been broken.
“My car was broken into and the right driver’s window was completely shattered and hacked out. Public Safety found my car broken into and called my parents – because of the registration – to tell them and they told me,” Dupkin said.
Dupkin’s car was locked and he claims nothing was stolen. Since this incident, other students have reported that their cars were opened and rummaged through and items from $200 cash to phone chargers were stolen.
“For the most part it is a crime of opportunity. Whatever they can grab that might be of value was grabbed, a lot of phone or computer chargers, a GPS and loose change or currency is the majority of it,” O’Callaghan said.
At the time of the incident, Dupkin’s car was parked in the lot in front of the Netherlands, adjacent to Oak Street, the same location a majority of the other larcenies or attempted larcenies were reported.
“A little more than half of them occurred in the Netherlands lots. But through our investigation, looking at video we have in the area, we did come up with a subject,” O’Callaghan said. “We have a basic description and he was on a bicycle, going through the lots very quickly. You see at one point when a car pulls into the lot he hides between two cars. So he definitely was just trying all the doors and when he found one that was unlocked he went in and grabbed the stuff.”
Public Safety also believes that the subject is a non-student and since being identified as the cause of the crimes, the man was observed on the south side of campus and fled on his bicycle into the backstreets after Public Safety called out to him.
After Dupkin’s car window was broken, he said he was told by Public Safety that there were no cameras pointing at the parking spot he was in, and that the only cameras are near the back turnstiles of the Netherlands.
“Public Safety handled it by making a report and then nothing else further. I didn’t ask for police assistance because there were no cameras,” Dupkin said.
O’Callaghan recognized that the Netherlands lot was difficult to secure and said that after the initial incidents, Public Safety increased patrols in that area.
“We patrol it all the time. We put extra Public Safety officers out, some not in uniform or in unmarked cars to sit in lots. The one thing we can’t do in Netherlands lot is lock it down because of the way it is set up. So we do extra patrols through there, but as I said, it was easier to get in and out so that is why a lot [of the larcenies] happened there and a lot happened on south campus because those lots are open.”
On the cameras overlooking the lot, O’Callaghan said, “We have the newest cameras in there, the problem is the lighting in the parking lot makes it almost blurry. We increase the lighting in there but then the cameras aren’t as effective, but there is some discussion of adding another camera.”
According to Public Safety, there are about 30 cameras across campus, mainly by entrances to “residence halls and certain buildings.”
With the recent crime spike, students have mixed feelings regarding the safety of campus.
Mark Motler a senior accounting major said he feels safe on campus and among students. “Our campus is secure in the evening, gates are locked and I don’t think that many students would actively try to steal from others, especially from cars. [The recent crimes] haven’t really affected me because I don’t have a car. During the day we are an open campus, I would be surprised if [the suspect] was a student because I think we generally respect each other.”
Junior speech-language-hearing sciences major Megan McGee said that, “for the most part,” she feels her vehicle is safe on campus but is still cautious due to the recent larcenies.
“There was a period of time when I didn’t [lock my car] and I was just too trusting apparently. I’m going to be really paranoid and make sure it is locked all the time now. [The incidents] definitely make me nervous about parking,” McGee said.
As a victim of the recent larcenies, Dupkin said via text that he hopes Hofstra will step up security in parking lots.
“I do not feel my vehicle is at all safe. Parking lots on campus are not secure. I only park in the back of the Netherlands now, which still isn’t safe. There is no reason why cameras cannot be installed. At this point, wherever cars are, cameras should also be. This university has enough money and should take such precautions being in such an area.”