Residents in the Village Apartments at Montclair State are on edge this semester after a series of break-ins and thefts have occurred in the residence halls.
On the morning of Feb. 17, Montclair State senior Francesca Moran woke up to find her apartment door unlocked and her wallet missing from her purse. “Someone came into the room at night and stole it while we were sleeping,” said Moran.
Thefts within residential halls occur a few times a year, but Moran is the third person to report a theft in the Village in one month.
This is the second time in less than a year that Moran has had her wallet stolen while living in the Village. “I lived here all summer, and my wallet was stolen from the laundry room,” she said. Moran’s bedroom and apartment key were stolen, along with all forms of identification, including her driver’s license and Montclair State ID card. “I had nothing. I couldn’t take money out of my bank account. I couldn’t drive. I had no insurance cards. I couldn’t prove my own identity,” said Moran. “It was a mess.”
She said that she reported the incident to the University Police Department (UPD)three times, but failed to receive much help the first time. “They made me feel like it was all my fault that [my wallet] got stolen,” said Moran. She then spoke with Captain Kieran Barrett of UPD about the incident. Moran said that Barrett helped her more than anyone that she had reached out to about the issue. “He was really nice,” said Moran.
According to the Jeanne Clery Act, burglary crimes at Montclair State have decreased immensely since 2012, when there were 62 recorded thefts. Forty-one of these incidences occurred in residence halls. In 2014, there were only 37 burglaries, 22 of which occurred in residence halls.
Apart from the burglaries, reports of homeless individuals entering the buildings and student apartments have also surfaced. “Access to facilities and residences is limited,” said Barrett. “Do not let someone you do not know into the building. We all have a part in keeping not only ourselves safe, but each other as well. Report suspicious activity as it [is] happening.” He also advised students to “secure their belongings.”
There have been reports of the Village front doors being propped open and broken into by unknown individuals since September 2015. Moran said that her belongings were stolen while the front doors to her building were broken.
“It would be interesting to see if other schools have security cameras,” said Moran, stating that the lack of security in residence halls makes her question her safety at Montclair State.
Lehman College and Berkley College are among the colleges that have security cameras to help keep students safe, but students at Montclair State have begun to question the absence of surveillance cameras at the university.
When this concern was mentioned to Barrett, he said, “I cannot stress enough that video recording alone will not prevent crime, and we all have to take an active role in the safety of our campus.”
John Delate, Executive Director of Residence Life, was surprised by the incidences happening in the Village.
“Although the overall number of criminal acts are limited, any thefts are upsetting,” he said. Delate also disclosed his thoughts on surveillance cameras on the Montclair State campus. “While surveillance cameras can assist with investigations, if a theft takes place inside a room or apartment, a camera would not record the incident. Camera placement is a topic we do discuss, and we welcome student input in this area.”
Delate said that students, residential or commuting, should be aware of their surroundings even though Montclair State is an “overall safe campus.” He continued, “Locking doors at all times is critical, and never leaving backpacks unattended is essential. If students are careful, the vast majority of thefts will be prevented. I am a campus resident as well, so I take the same precautions.”