Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle U Bookstore Burglars on the Lam

Alyssa Brandt • The Spectator

Most of us haven’t had cubbies since preschool. Maybe it’s for the best.

At the Seattle University bookstore, the cubbies near the entrance are adorned with a large sign instructing customers to stash their belongings before browsing the merchandise.

It’s a system designed to prevent shoplifting—but it isn’t preventing theft.

Several students have had belongings stolen from the cubbies this year.

Students are told to leave entire backpacks in the cubbies, whether they contain sweaty gym clothes or an expensive laptop. The cubbies are an open-aired shelving system that is not covered by video surveillance.

There have been sporadic incidents involving lost belongings in the past, but the number of thefts so far this quarter has become a real concern.

“Typically we can go for a number of years and not have any thefts, and then sometimes we might have one or two,” said bookstore manager Robert Spencer. “This time we’ve had three or four and it seems to be up.”

Two of these thefts occurred on the same day.

Senior Megan Jansky-Bingel is the victim of one such theft that occurred in early October. On a trip to the bookstore to return a planner, her entire backpack was stolen from a cubby while she browsed the aisles of the store.

Although, it did not contain expensive items like a cell phone, wallet or laptop, it did contain valuable items. Textbooks and notebooks for classes with upcoming tests were taken along with the planner, a water bottle and her lunch.

Jansky-Bingel immediately walked across the hall to Public Safety and reported the crime, “kind of hoping they would jump on their Segways” and catch the thief before he or she got too far, she said.

The Segways, however, remained parked.

The senior was told she would be called later once Public Safety had reviewed surveillance footage from the hallway.

A couple hours went by and Jansky-Bingel returned, having not heard back from the office. Officers showed her pictures of the suspect leaving the building with her backpack, but there wasn’t much else they could do.

Spencer was far more helpful, Jansky-Bingel said.

He addressed her concern and the issue of security for students’ personal belongings in the bookstore cubbies. Jansky-Bingel never saw the return of her backpack, but the bookstore replaced her textbooks.

Nearly two weeks went by after the theft until the usual signs at the front of the store instructing students to leave their bags in a cubby disappeared and were replaced with pieces of paper taped to the shelving that state, “Warning. Please leave your valuables with the cashier.”

Even so, Jansky-Bingel felt that both Public Safety and the bookstore were “not being very proactive about putting a stop to [the thefts].” She pointed out that, in some ways, this was a violation of the trust students have in the services the university provides.

Assistant Director of Operations in the Department of Public Safety Dominique Maryanski stressed that students should “err on the side of caution, security and safety…as opposed to convenience.”

While it may be convenient for a student to leave their items unattended while going to the bathroom or grabbing a coffee, somebody else can conveniently pick up a new laptop or backpack.

“Most of the crime that we see on campus, if any at all are crimes of opportunity, and theft is one,” Maryanski said. “It’s generally one that can be prevented just by simple steps taken to secure your stuff.”

Maryanski also emphasized that Public Safety is not the local law enforcement agency, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) is. Students are always encouraged to report any crimes on campus to SPD.

Public Safety can help a student to make contact with SPD, but as Maryanski said of Public Safety, “we’re not the reporting party of the victim.”

This year was the first year, according to Spencer, in over a decade that SPD has not been present at the bookstore during the fall quarter rush. It is unknown why this happened, but the bookstore would like to see them back. The presence of SPD might help to reduce robberies.

Operations supervisor of the bookstore Matt Walsh also notes that the store is fairly secluded from the outside world and typically only students or staff know of it. He speculates that there is a possibility an off-campus affiliate has discovered it “and maybe that’s why we’re getting hit more.”

In light of recent events, the bookstore staff is considering the possibility of installing closed lockers in place of the cubbies to protect students’ belongings and maintain control over the shoplifting risk.

In the meantime, Spencer said, students are encouraged to leave their backpacks with a cashier behind the register and staff are on high alert.

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