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Thefts strike chord with Ohio State’s School of Music

A recent string of thefts in the Ohio State School of Music has left students with a heightened awareness of their personal belongings.

Two thefts of backpacks within the last three months occurred in Weigel Hall, one of the School of Music’s two buildings located off of High Street.

Jennifer Cross, a first-year in music education and French horn player, said she is much more alert with her instrument and her belongings now.

“I definitely am aware of the recent thefts,” Cross said. “I used to leave my equipment outside in the hall during band, but now I will keep it with me in the auditorium at all times.”

Adam DeAscentis, a second-year in jazz studies, said he did not hear about the specific thefts.

“We actually get emails all the time from the School of Music,” DeAscentis said. “We hear about thefts all the time within the school, but I didn’t know any of them had happened recently.”

Richard Blatti, director of the School of Music, sent an email to students on May 5 describing the latest theft and warning them to be wary of their surroundings.

Blatti said the School of Music is now in “airport mode,” meaning an increase in security and awareness on behalf of all faculty and students.

“We are all going to have to be in ‘airport mode’ where personal belongings are concerned,” Blatti said in the email. “None out of sight at any time for any reason.”

Deputy Chief Richard Morman of OSU Police confirmed the two thefts. Morman said the two thefts occurred on May 5 and March 15 in Weigel.

Nathan Blackwell, the most recent victim and a third-year in performance and Japanese, reportedly lost his backpack and its contents when he left it unattended in a room in Weigel Hall.

“This kind of thing is bad of course, but I have personally experienced worse on this campus. I was mugged and kidnapped in October of 2009,” Blackwell said. “In comparison, this bag thing is just a minor inconvenience.”

Blackwell said he left the bag containing his MacBook unattended in a closed room, partially concealed under his desk for about four minutes.

“I went to the bathroom and just didn’t think about locking up my backpack or taking it with me,” Blackwell said. “It was gone when I returned.”

Christopher Ott, the victim of the March theft and an OSU student in jazz studies, lost his backpack and its contents when it was taken out of a room in Weigel Hall between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m March 15. The backpack contained Ott’s computer and iPod, Morman said.

Ott did not respond to The Lantern’s emails.

Blatti said it is hard to say how students will react to the thefts.

“I think that being musicians, we form a family,” Blatti said. “So we look out for one another. I don’t think the students are necessarily scared, just more aware that something could happen.”

Blatti said he encourages students to be “more protective and more pre-emptive” to prevent theft within the School of Music.

“With us so near High Street and with the high traffic in our buildings, we simply cannot trust anyone at this point,” Blatti said. “What is disturbing is you have all kinds of people around on such a large university, and they see easy targets in students.”

Morman said students should not be alarmed by the thefts, but should simply take caution.

“It’s nothing to be scared of because things like this happen all over campus,” he said. “But students should definitely be watching their stuff and not leaving it unattended.”

Blatti said to pay special attention to “messenger bags, laptops, instruments and backpacks.”

“We just had two very similar thefts, maybe carried out by the same person,” he said. “They both happened in an unprotected hallway in Weigel.”

Morman said it’s typical that both items stolen were backpacks.

“Normally with thefts on campus, you have people stealing backpacks,” he said. “People usually have electronics and nice things in there.”

Blatti said there has actually been a decline in thefts that have occurred at Hughes Hall, another School of Music building across College Road from Weigel.

The School of Music has taken precautions to try to prevent thefts since he has been with OSU, which has been for about 20 years, Blatti said.

“We have installed cameras and campus patrols,” Blatti said. “Since then, we have seen a decline, but you will still have incidents like these last few months where you see a little rise.”

Hughes is being renovated now and that will include more security, Blatti said.

“We plan on making sure that building is fully protected with cameras,” he said.  

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