Two break-ins occurred in the Sylvan Residential Area Friday night, as unidentified perpetrators entered rooms in Brown dormitory.
The University of Massachusetts Police Department (UMPD) is currently investigating the first incident; as of yet, no suspects have been arrested. The second break-in was not reported to police, and it has not been confirmed if the two crimes are connected.
The first incident took place Friday evening. The UMPD received a call at 1:30 a.m reporting a break-in and larceny. Officers responding to the call interviewed the resident, who described the thief as an unshaven white man between 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-10 with brown hair who was wearing a black sweatshirt and appeared drunk. The description was distributed to officers, who are investigating security camera footage, security desk guest logs and the serial numbers of the stolen goods as possible leads.
The other resident of the room, who asked not to be identified, stated that he received a phone call from his roommate at approximately 12:30 a.m. saying that someone had stolen property from his room. He returned to his room to find his laptop, refrigerator and television missing, and his roommate being interviewed by UMPD officers.
“It was pretty clear to the officers doing their investigation that the wires were pulled out carefully,” said Deputy Police Chief Patrick Archbald. “This was not a smash and grab.”
The resident’s roommate had entered the room earlier to find an unknown man going through his closet. The stolen possessions had already been taken from the room, suggesting either multiple thieves or a single perpetrator making more than one trip. Despite usually being security-conscious, that night the resident had forgotten to lock his door.
“The kid said he was with me. He wasn’t,” said the resident. “My roommate let him go, and he took off running. [The roommate] chased him for a little bit but the kid got lost in a stairwell.”
The suspect would face felony charges of larceny over $250 and breaking and entering if caught, according to Archbald.
“If we find him he’ll be arrested on the spot,” he said. “These are serious charges … we’re going to be pursuing all the leads.”
For the victim, Friday’s theft has left doubts about the security of Sylvan.
“I feel safe, I don’t think anyone’s going to come after me,” said the resident. “But I don’t think [Sylvan] is as safe as the other dorms. I don’t at all.”
This academic year has seen a fairly typical number of break-ins, according to Archbald.
“These sort of high-profile breaks into dorms are rare,” he said. “What we see more often than not is someone who is not a student” stealing from unlocked and unoccupied rooms.
The second break-in occurred at approximately 3:30 a.m. in a different Brown room. For Springfield Technical Community College student Zike Tarzian, who was visiting UMass sophomore Neil Bajaj for the weekend, an unexpected confrontation marked a bizarre end to his Friday night.
Tarzian, who was sleeping in Bajaj’s room while Bajaj was still out, woke to find an unknown man going through a desk drawer.
“Someone opened the door. I was still half asleep, and I assumed it was Neil … I woke up and I looked down, and it wasn’t Neil,” he said. “I was like, ‘Can I help you?’ and he looked up and ran down the hallway.”
Tarzian woke up Bajaj’s roommate Tim Parlengas, who Tarzian said “had no idea who it was.” The man left the room without taking anything.
“It’s kind of just disrespectful to everyone you’re going to school with. I don’t think that person would like it if I went in their room and raided everything out of there, or walked in at 3:00 in the morning when people are trying to sleep,” said Tarzian. “I feel bad enough when I come in at 3:00 in the morning and [Neil and his roommate] are trying to sleep.”
Bajaj had never considered the risk of a break-in prior to Friday night.
“We keep our door unlocked at night… We’re in here, so we figure that if anyone came in we’d wake up,” he said. “We’re probably going to start locking our doors after that.”
Dan Glaun can be reached at [email protected]
Correction: The print version of this article incorrectly lists the suspect’s height as between 5-foot-3 and 5-foot-10.