Third Case of Theft in Two Weeks Prompts Security Discussion

Three incidents of theft on campus have occurred within the past two weeks. On Sunday, November 11, a male Senior’s backpack, containing a laptop, iPhone, wallet and school materials, was stolen out of his gym locker while he was taking a shower. The Senior closed his locker but did not lock it and returned to discover that his backpack had been stolen. He called Phillips Academy Public Safety (PAPS), and a PAPS officer notified the Andover Police. A credit card from the Senior’s wallet was used in Salem, N.H., following the theft. The Salem Police are investigating the matter but have not identified any suspects, according to the Senior. On Wednesday, November 7, a laptop belonging to a female Senior was stolen from her backpack in Paresky Commons during dinner. The theft occurred around 5:20 p.m. and was reported later that evening, according to Thomas Conlon, Director of PAPS. On Monday, November 5, three teenagers not affiliated with the school rifled through three backpacks in Commons and stole $160 from one backpack, belonging to a male Junior, as previously reported in The Phillipian. After reviewing surveillance tapes from security cameras in Commons, Conlon and the Andover Police Department were able to identify the two male teenagers who stole the female Senior’s laptop on November 7, as both had been involved in the November 5 incident. Both perpetrators are under 18 years of age and are not students at Andover. By 8 p.m. on November 8, the Andover Police Department issued a search warrant for the stolen laptop. The two perpetrators were subsequently arrested and the laptop was returned to the female Senior shortly thereafter. However, the $160 stolen from the male Junior is still missing. Conlon said he does not know if the female Senior will press charges. Conlon said that he recognized suspicious behavior in the two males while reviewing the surveillance videos. He said that both were wearing hoodies that concealed parts of their faces. “[The perpetrators] are the same age as students here. Students are coming in and out, and so a lot of people may not have noticed them. That’s why it’s absolutely imperative to keep track of the people around you–the people you know belong there, the people you recognize,” said Conlon. These thefts were unusual because they occurred in Commons, according to Paul Murphy, Dean of Students. Conlon said that it is more common for a reported theft to be committed by an Andover student rather than someone not affiliated with the school. However, thefts are usually not reported, and the laptop theft on November 7 was one of only a few incidents that have been caught on security footage. “Usually, backpacks are mistakenly taken by students–or sometimes deliberately–but this is the first time there has been an outside theft, caught on film, from the building,” said Conlon. After Commons reopened in 2009 after renovations, security cameras were added to the building’s lobby. “It’s good that we know what happened, because if we didn’t have the cameras, we might be assuming that it happened [internally], from one student to another,” said Murphy. The school’s Safety Committee, led by Conlon, has been working to identify short-term ways to reduce theft, which include installing more security cameras around campus like those in the lobby of Commons, according to Murphy. Murphy said that long-term goals involve re-evaluating the accessibility and security of Andover’s campus. “I think we would like to make changes that don’t change the culture [of Andover], if we can manage that. But this may be a moment when we need to sacrifice our feeling of freedom for a feeling of security,” said Murphy. In the wake of the thefts, Conlon urges students to be aware of their surroundings and to alert a faculty member or PAPS officer of any suspicious activity.