A window of opportunity

A burglary last month revealed that the window screen alarm systems in Townhouses were not functional. But College officials say the alarms will probably not be back online until Winter Break.

In late August, Access Control, with oversight from the Card Services Task Force and a steering committee, completed an upgrade to the College’s Blackboard system, which controls all dining hall registers, door swipes and security systems on campus.

But according to Sean Stallings, director of Residential Education and Housing, his staff was not notified until after a break-in at Townhouses West that this upgrade had resulted in the loss of support for the window screen alarm system in all Townhouse complexes.

“It didn’t become clear to us that the alarms were not working until after that incident,” Stallings said. “We notified residents as soon as we knew to lock their windows and just take extra precautions because the window alarms are not working.”

According to Campus Police, a student reported that a burglar had broken into her Townhouse apartment on Sept. 5 sometime between 6 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. A laptop computer and an Old Navy canvas bag were reported missing.

A police investigation revealed that the suspect entered the room by cutting or ripping a window screen and bending the screen frame up from the bottom. The alarm, located on a wall near the Townhouse West residence office, failed to sound. The total value of the stolen laptop was reported as $1,510. No suspect has been charged in the incident.

The next night, Sept. 6, Nicole Vitelli, Townhouses Complex Coordinator, sent out an e-mail directing all housing assistants in Townhouses to notify residents about the alarms.

“We want to let everyone know that as soon as we (ResLife) got this information, we passed it along,” Vitelli wrote.

Residential Education and Housing staff distributed fliers to Townhouse residents advising them to keep their windows locked when out of the house.

According to Chris Chamberlin, assistant director for Administrative and Environmental Services, Access Control did not anticipate that support for the screen alarms would be lost.

“It was not known before the project was undertaken,” he said via e-mail. “The screen alarms are a very small part of the Blackboard system.”

Access Control is in the process of installing a new Honeywell screen alarm system, which Chamberlin says will be an improvement over the old Blackboard system. Instead of a local alarm, the new Honeywell system will directly notify Campus Police when it detects a break-in.

While installation of the new screen alarm system is set to be completed during Winter Break, Chamberlin wrote that the project might be completed sooner.

However, Stallings advises students in Townhouses to be cautious under any circumstance and to keep their windows locked when out of the house, even after the screen alarm system is back online.

“Any alarm can fail, and most residence halls don’t even have screen alarms,” he said. “What we don’t want is for students to behave in a way that might invite a burglary. And that’s, you know, not to blame the victim. I’d just tell students to be a little precautious and to be mindful of their circumstances.”