Recent thefts on the Portland campus have led police to issue a warning to students and staff. Some are questioning the level of concern generated by the warning’s call to report suspicious people to the police.
The thefts started shortly before Christmas and have continued into the new year. Most of the thefts have targeted unattended wallets. Credit cards and small amounts of cash were taken in each instance.
The similarity of the crimes which took place in Law School offices, the Glickman Family Library, the Sullivan Gymnasium, and USM offices at 68 High St. prompted USM Police Detective Ron Saindon to speculate that a single individual is responsible.
Saindon believes the Portland campus may have become an easy target for a thief.
“People are trusting by nature, and tend to be lax with their possessions especially in their offices,” said Saindon.
Saindon also noted that the Portland Campus is an urban one where non-students can easily blend in. Saindon stressed the need for increased caution at USM.
“The best approach we can take as a community is to be proactive and take better security precautions of our personal belongings,” said Saindon, “If your desk locks, lock it. If the door locks, lock it.”
A message posted by Saindon to the USM Information Exchange, a Listserv used by people in the USM community to exchange messages, detailed such precautions. It also advised people on campus to report “suspicious persons or activity” to the police.
The advice was repeated by others on the Listserv including a posting by Ana Mercado of the College of Nursing and Health Professionals in which she reported comments about an increase in heroine use made by Portland Police Chief Mike Chitwood.
“Heroine addicts need fast money so they will find easy targets!” concluded Mercado.
Catherine Blount, an administrative assistant in the Linguistics Department, expressed concern that innocent people who are merely lost and asking for directions may be needlessly labeled suspicious. Blount urged others to be more careful with valuables rather than blame others.
Saindon pointed to the need to discriminate between people who may simply be lost on campus and those who are truly acting suspicious.
“Report somebody that is looking and acting strangely, if they appear to be wandering aimlessly, if they are sticking their heads in offices or avoiding eye contact with people,” said Saindon.
Freshman Lindsay Wilson admitted that she sometimes leaves her purse unattended during visits to the library.
“I’d like to think that nobody would find anything interesting in it,” said Wilson.
Staff writer John McCarthy can be contacted at: [email protected]