Between September and November, four thefts and two burglaries from the eating clubs have been reported, compared to zero in the same period last year, according to a review of police records from the same period in 2012 and 2013.
The incidents have been reported at Cap & Gown, Cottage, Terrace, Quadrangle and Tower Clubs.
Based on public records detailing the incidents as well as interviews with eating club presidents, the victims themselves and police officers, no explanation for the increase in the number of reported incidents could be determined. In fact, one eating club president was not aware that any thefts had been reported in his club at all this semester.
However, the incidents show that even when the clubs are closed to the public, their security is not always strict. Although clubs generally have security officers at the front of their buildings when they are open for events, the front door and many of the side doors remain unlocked throughout the day.
During the same period in 2012, from September to November, there were no reports of any incidents in the eating clubs, according to weekly press releases issued by the Princeton Police Department.
“I wouldn’t see six [incidents] over the course of three months as a drastic increase,” said Princeton Police Chief Capt. Nick Sutter, who authored the 2012 press releases when he was employed by the former Princeton Borough.
However, Sutter also noted that not all thefts reported to the police department are released to the press, suggesting that more could be reported.
“It wouldn’t be possible for us to put every single theft that occurs in Princeton in the press releases, or that’s all we would do,” he said. “So we try to put, without specific requests, cases that we feel are of concern or importance to the community.”
In most cases of theft, the victims said they first called the on-campus Department of Public Safety before being redirected to the municipal police. Because the eating clubs are not under University jurisdiction, any crime reported there is handled by the Princeton Police Department.
DPS Director of Operations Stefanie Karp said that DPS has no records of any of the thefts.
In two cases, the victims waited a few days before calling the police, making both cases more difficult to solve, Sutter said.
“A theft reported after the fact is that much more difficult to solve, because a lot of evidence and leads are lost in that time,” he said. “Without witnesses or other evidence from the scene, they do become difficult to solve, so we try to take, especially with theft, more of a proactive approach, advising victims of how to prevent it.”
In one case, a victim said she recovered her lost wallet after an eating club president said he had found it while unclogging a toilet. However, she said she never informed the police that she had recovered her wallet.
The victims of these thefts were granted anonymity because The Daily Princetonian generally does not publish the names of victims of crimes.
The presidents of Quad and Cap, two of the clubs where the thefts occurred, declined to comment as to whether or not their clubs maintain security cameras.
The day of Lawnparties, Sunday, Sept. 15, just before 7:30 p.m., two black males and one white male were allegedly seen walking around the third floor of Cap, a section of the club reserved for officer quarters.
Cap president Justin Perez ’14 said when he asked them to leave, the three men allegedly ran out of a side door. One of the black males and the white male then fled on foot, while the other black male allegedly did not run. Perez said he confronted the male, who denied stealing anything from the club, and videotaped their conversation.
A security guard at Cap, Breone Christie, also spoke to the male who did not flee, according to a police narrative of the incident, and told him they had caught one of his friends. In reality, however, the two other men were never caught.
The male then allegedly fled the club on foot, and Christie followed him.
A few minutes later, Christie called the Princeton Police and said he was following the male on Nassau Street. He described him as a 19-year-old black male, wearing a blue-hooded sweatshirt with an Afro-style haircut. Three police officers checked the area but were unable to find him.
The police then met with Christie and Perez back at Cap and were able to identify the male from the video Perez had of their conversation.
According to the narrative, Perez said there would be “no legitimate reason for them to be in the club” unless the individuals were there to commit a theft.
“We had our doors open to our members after Lawnparties,” Perez said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. “Every now and then we have to keep an eye out for people, and if they don’t belong here … then we have to escort them out of the building.”
Perez also confirmed that nothing had been stolen from the club. He said the burglary incident would not change the way security is handled at Cap.
While Princeton Police Sgt. Christopher Tash was investigating the incident, he was also approached by members of Cottage, located right next door, who said they had seen the same individuals earlier that night. That incident was investigated separately by Ptl. Thomas Lagomarsino.
Earlier that evening, at about 5:39 p.m., a Cottage member was sleeping in her bedroom on the second floor of the club. When she woke up, according to a narrative of the incident, she allegedly saw two black males and one white male inside her room. When the member addressed the alleged intruders, one of them said they were looking for a girl whose name she did not recognize.
The Cottage member was later able to provide a description of the two black males’ clothing but was unable to provide the same information in the case of the white male.
At the time, Cottage was not open to the public, although it had been opened earlier for Lawnparties attendees, according to the police report.
Because there were several security officers at the front door, the president of Cottage, John Ed McGee ’14, speculated the three came in through a side door, the narrative said.
Members of Cottage searched the club and also determined that nothing had been stolen.
McGee did not respond to requests for comment.
The Terrace Theft
Since September, four thefts have been reported to the Princeton Police Department: one each in Terrace, Cottage, Tower and Quad.
The first of these occurred at Terrace on Sept. 13, the Thursday before Lawnparties. The victim, a sophomore, entered the club at approximately 2:30 a.m., leaving her coat, wallet and cell phone in the Terrace coatroom, according to the student.
Approximately 20 minutes later, when she returned to the coatroom, her coat was drenched in beer, and the phone and wallet were missing, she said.
The student spoke to the officers in Terrace that night but could not find her wallet or cell phone. After calling the police, she filled out a police report, but she never heard back from them.
However, that Sunday, the day of Lawnparties, she received a fortuitous call from Terrace president Neal Donnelly ’14, who told her he had found her wallet.
“[Donnelly] was like, ‘Oh, we tried our best to clean them and dry them off for you,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, that’s weird,’” the sophomore student said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’
As it turns out, her wallet had been thrown into one of the men’s room toilets in Terrace, a fact Donnelly did not mention at first.
“[During Lawnparties], one of the men’s toilets was clogged and wasn’t working, so they opened it up and found two wallets inside, one of which was mine,” the victim said. “My phone is still lost; it was stolen, so I had to go get a new one and everything, which sucks, but I got all my IDs back and everything — they’re just a little bit wet.”
Donnelly recommended students not leave valuable items unattended in an eating club.
The Cottage Theft
Also on the day of Lawnparties, a theft occurred at Cottage, separate from the burglary incident reported later that day. Between 2 and 5 p.m., a member of Cottage left a Longchamp bag, filled with personal items such as clothing and earrings, reportedly valued at $1,178, in the coatroom in Cottage. When she came back, the bag was gone, she reported to the police.
In this case, the victim waited about a week before calling the police.
“I was hoping that someone would bring it back to the club,” the victim said in an interview.
The victim has not yet recovered any of her stolen property and has not been contacted by the police since she first reported the theft, she said.
The HighSteppers/Quad Theft
About two months later, on Nov. 9, the HighSteppers Step Team rented out Quad for their “Hit ’Em with the Beats” after-party, attended not only by the Highsteppers, but also by members of the step teams from Howard University, Temple University and the University at Albany.
After the party, a freshman student on HighSteppers stayed back to help clean up with the other HighSteppers and some of the other teams’ members, leaving her wallet on a nearby table.
“I put my stuff down for a second to help move the couch, and I turned around and my stuff was gone,” she said in an interview.
Like most Princeton students and the other victims, her first instinct was to call DPS. However, she was redirected to the Princeton Police Department, as the eating clubs are not under University jurisdiction. She filed a report within 12 hours of the theft.
“We all searched Quad as soon as it was stolen, and we just couldn’t find it, so we concluded that someone just probably ran off with it,” the victim said, noting that she believed the thief was probably from one of the visiting schools.
A month later, she still has not recovered her wallet. The police have not contacted her since she filed the report.
Quad president Branden Lewiston ’14 said he wasn’t aware of the theft.
“I have not been contacted at all by any member or non-member this semester regarding any thefts at Quad,” he said.
Lewiston said that the club is not responsible for security when an outside group rents space.
“Unfortunately, when a group is renting a room, they are responsible for their own security measures,” Lewiston said. “It’s not anything we can do to make sure that other groups aren’t experiencing thefts.”
During open club events, Lewiston said, “We have multiple bouncers. We also have a lock on our front door that is only accessed through a pass code.”
The Tower Theft
The day after the Quad theft, a member of Tower left her jacket in the club’s coatroom at 6:15 p.m., before going to dinner. When she returned 45 minutes later, the jacket and her wallet, which had been in the left pocket, were missing.
The victim waited three days before calling the police and filing a report. She has not been contacted by the police since.
The victim said she is more careful now and does not leave her belongings unattended anymore.
“I keep everything with me now at all times,” she said.
To view the police reports from each of the crimes, see below.