Cell phone theft plagues Learning Center


Exterior of the Learning Center (Photo by Courtney Johnson/2010 The Inquirer)

A rash of cell phone thefts has plagued the Learning Center but not yet resulted in arrests and formal charges, campus police said.
One such victim, Jennifer Greene, is an instructional assistant at the Learning Center.

She returned to find her iPhone was missing from the purse she placed behind the desk. The earbuds that had been connected to the phone were left dangling over the side of the bag.

“I think somebody just saw me come in with it and just followed me in and saw I was stupid enough to leave my phone, or my purse, in plain view,” Greene said. “It was pretty brazen.”

Greene filed a report with Police Services and placed reward signs around the center.

“It had pictures and videos of my 3-year-old on it that I can’t get back,” Greene said of her phone. “I was hoping somebody would return it, but I think if they were, they would have done it by now.”

Greene said similar situations have been happening in the Learning Center lately.

One student left a cell phone in the restroom and when she went to retrieve it moments later, it was missing, Greene said.

A few days before Greene’s phone was stolen, Sonya Castro, the Center’s senior office assistant, overheard a young man persistently trying to sell a stolen phone to another just outside her office door.

Although she never saw the individuals, she suspects they were students.

The young man was trying to sell the phone for about $20, Castro said.
“He was saying, ‘I just need some money so I can eat,'” she said.

Castro did not file a report after hearing this exchange take place.

“They sounded rough, and I didn’t want to really get involved,” she said.

Lt. Tom Sharp of Police Services said he has not yet received a report of stolen cell phones in the Learning Center, although Greene said she filed one.

A disciplinary process would be followed for anyone caught for such an act, he said.

Campus police would handle this type of criminal activity differently depending on whether the suspect was a student, he added.

They would most likely forward the case of a non-student to the District Attorney’s office while that of a student would be referred to Bill Oye, dean of student life.

Oye said he has not yet dealt with any cases of cell phone theft.

  “Nine times out of 10, I believe it’s non-students who are doing the stealing,” Oye said. “Students here are going somewhere. Would they risk that to steal something of so little value?”

If the offender is confirmed as a student, Oye said he considers the person’s academic record and whether he or she expresses remorse to determine disciplinary action.

He also takes into account whether it is a first time offense as well as the person’s life situation.

“Not that people who are worse off are going to get a free ride,” Oye said. “But you have to look at the circumstances.”

He said students should take more precautionary measures in guarding their property.

“You don’t want to be paranoid,” Oye said. “But you also don’t want to be stupid.”

He also suggested people register items that contain serial numbers with the campus police, to make it easier to retrieve and identify stolen belongings.


Contact Annie Sciacca at [email protected]