Burglary reported at Terrace Apartment raises questions on campus security

Image courtesy of Alisha Arden ’25.

Safety and Security notified the Vassar community of a burglary at a Terrace Apartment (TA) after the theft of a bike on Feb 8. The report sent out by Safety and Security on Thursday, Feb. 9, alleges that the unknown person entered through an unlocked door and took a teal-colored Nishiki women’s mountain bike. This most recent break-in raises questions about campus security and what the College, and its students, can do to prevent further incidents. 

The Office of Campus Safety reported in a written statement that the break-in at the TA was the first burglary of the 2022-23 school year, with the last on-campus larceny reported in March  2022. Director of Campus Safety Arlene Sabo, in a written correspondence, said, “If you look at the annual (per calendar year) burglary statistics over the past few years, the statistics range from a low of 1 in 2022 to a high of 10 in 2020.

A Vassar Student Association (VSA) survey from the beginning of the 2022-23 school year showed that 72 percent of current and former apartment residents feel Vassar’s response to crime in apartment spaces, specifically the increase of security patrols, has been insufficient in improving campus security. In the same VSA survey, 67.6 percent of students reported that they do not feel these measures will adequately improve safety on campus. VSA president Julián Aguilar ’23 confirmed that the VSA and Campus Safety are working together to create a plan to improve campus security, specifically concerning apartment spaces: “This data, in addition to this most recent troubling incident, guides our efforts and determination to produce collaborative and effective approaches to properly address apartment area safety.” 

Some apartment residents cite carrying physical keys as a deterrent to locking their doors. Town House (TH) resident MC Cicenia ’23 said in a written statement, “I think the reason people don’t lock doors at the THs and TAs is because it’s not super convenient to carry keys around with you everywhere or to lock doors every time you’re home.” Cicenia added, “I know at least three people who have had houses or cars broken into in the past year or so, which makes me feel unsafe even when we do lock doors.” 

Sabo also detailed past security initiatives: “Over the years, the campus has expanded card access, made lighting improvements and increased camera coverage of the outer perimeters of the various sections of campus (i.e., main campus, the TAs, entrance roads).” 

Exactly what new safety implementations will be made remains to be seen. According to the Chair of Residential Affairs Max Bergman ’25, the VSA has discussed the possibility of installing automatic locks with card readers in all apartment spaces. These locks only require a student’s Vassar ID card to unlock the door and automatically lock upon closing. This system allows for entry through the use of either a physical key or a resident’s Vassar ID card. TA resident Lola Perez-Fry ’23 expressed support for the idea by saying, “It will help make things feel more secure.” 

While the effectiveness of potential card reader installations in apartment spaces is still unknown, automatic locking and card reader systems were installed in all of the newly renovated  dorm rooms on the fifth floor of Main Building. The new lock implementation in Main has been far from seamless. The Residential Operations Center (ROC) reports that at least six out of 20 of fifth-floor center rooms do not have operational card readers. Resident of fifth-floor Main Matthew Graham ’25 said in an in-person interview that his card reader hasn’t worked since the start of the school year. Regardless, Graham expressed support for the installation in apartment spaces by saying, “It makes less sense for dorms to have card readers since it’s inconvenient when the door locks automatically, but it would be more beneficial for apartment spaces.” During the VSA Senate meeting on Feb. 12, Aguilar added that each reader costs upwards of $3000. 

 For now, TA residents should plan to lock their doors whenever possible. “Individual actions, like ensuring your apartment is properly locked regardless if you’re home or not, are definitely helpful and important,” said Aguilar. 

Sabo echoed this statement by saying, “This is basic but it bears repeating, please help us reduce opportunity for burglaries and larcenies by locking up securely all doors, both when home and away, and all entry level windows.” Additionally, the Campus Safety Office recommends securing valuable items, notifying Campus Security of any unlocked areas that should be secured, calling the CRC before admitting an unknown individual and utilizing the campus shuttle. 

While concrete security amendments are still pending, both Safety and Security as well as students must work together to mitigate future incidents. Students wishing to provide feedback or concerns about apartment safety to either the VSA or Campus Safety are encouraged to reach out to the Chair of Residential Affairs Max Bergman.

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