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UCLA Housing responds to backpack thefts and tightens storage policy

Thefts on the hill

  • University police and UCLA Housing recommend that students lock up their belongings when eating at a dining hall
  • People looking for electronics to steal and sell often target college dining halls
  • Police recommend that students report suspicious activity

Compiled by Erin Donnelly, Bruin senior staff

By Anaika Miller

Feb. 20, 2013 1:43 a.m.

UCLA Housing and the Office of Residential Life are requiring students to store their belongings in lockers or leave them on metal racks, now located inside the dining halls, in response to a recent string of thefts.

University police recently told Housing that people were targeting the dining halls because items left outside are considered easy targets, said Dana Pysz, chair of ORL’s Safety and Security Education Committee.

In January, a couple from the San Fernando Valley allegedly stole several computers and a backpack from the Covel and De Neve dining halls, said UCPD Detective Andrew Ikeda. The couple also reportedly stole several backpacks and bags earlier in January and in December of last year.

The man and woman, who were in their early 20s, posed as college students and worked together to steal students’ items. They reportedly admitted they were addicted to heroin and stole the belongings to pay for drugs, Ikeda said.

This type of theft is not uncommon, Ikeda said. In the past several years, UCPD has arrested multiple people for stealing backpacks from outside the dining halls. Several of those arrested were former UCLA students who were familiar with the area and many of the people arrested admitted to police that they were addicted to heroin, Ikeda said.

Pysz said the news of the targeted theft came at a time when Housing had become increasingly concerned about the safety hazard of students’ backpacks scattered on the floor.

“It’s not only a personal property issue – it’s a fire and safety hazard,” Pysz said.

To help streamline the use of the lockers, Pysz said Housing is going to make them operable without coins.

Housing officials decided to stop using the coins because it created a bottleneck effect when people had to walk past others waiting in line to get a coin from the swipe-in desk, he said.

“We’re trying to eliminate that cross-traffic,” Pysz said.

As she was leaving De Neve dining hall after eating lunch on Tuesday, first-year undeclared student Veronica Garcia said she had to wait for a few minutes before a locker opened up.

Garcia said that she had never used the lockers before and was annoyed about having to wait for one.

Omer Hit, a first-year neuroscience student, said he had already started using the lockers more after hearing about backpacks being stolen.

He said, however, that he is worried about the effects of the decision.

“It’s going to be problematic because there’s the same number of people and less space,” Hit said.

Pysz said Housing is hoping to install more lockers as soon as possible, though it is unlikely they will be available by the end of this school year. Pysz said that Housing officials hope to install them sometime over the summer.

Ikeda said he thinks the change will probably reduce the number of thefts outside of dining halls – but he added that only time will tell if it has a lasting effect.

Contributing reports by Erin Donnelly, Bruin senior staff.

Email Miller at [email protected]

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