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Police arrest suspects in Lane Avenue Panera thefts

Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor

Four arrests in two days are linked to a string of recent campus-area thefts from automobiles and dorm rooms.
Officers arrested two males after they broke into a car at Panera on Lane Avenue Thursday at about 8 p.m. This incident was fourth in a line of automobile break-ins at Panera during a two-week span.
In the Panera parking lot, two men broke the window of a 2011 Honda Insight and stole a backpack containing a Dell laptop computer valued at $10,000, according to an Ohio State Police report.
The owner of the car is an OSU student who was inside Panera during the incident.
A staff member of the Department of Public Safety Central Alarm Center witnessed the theft and notified police officers who then made the arrests, according to a release from University Police.
One suspect was charged with theft and criminal damaging, the other with felonious assault and criminal trespass.
In earlier incidents at Panera, OSU students reported two thefts in a two-day span on Feb. 5 at about 7:30 p.m. and Wednesday at about 2:30 p.m.
These thefts were preceded by one on Jan. 25, also reported by an OSU student.
Representatives from Panera did not immediately return requests for comment Monday.
The two men arrested are only associated with the Thursday theft and suspects in the other cases are unknown, said Lt. Kimberly Spears-McNatt of University Police.
“We’re going to continue to monitor all the parking lots on campus, not just Panera,” Spears-McNatt said. “We hope that the car break-ins go down, but as always we try to encourage people to secure their valuables.”
University Police also arrested two males at Morrill Tower on Feb. 6 at about 6:30 p.m. following multiple reported thefts from the dorm since the beginning of Spring Semester.
These arrests came after police received a call about suspicious persons. Officers arrived at Morrill Tower and stopped two males fitting the description the caller provided. Police found a stolen laptop computer in their possession, according to a release from University Police.
The laptop belonged to a Lincoln Tower resident.
Both arrested males are unaffiliated with OSU. One 18-year-old was charged with receiving stolen property, criminal trespass and possession of drugs – marijuana. The other, a 15-year-old, and was charged with receiving stolen property and criminal trespass.
The two men arrested are only associated with the theft of the laptop they were found with, Spears-McNatt said.
A Morrill Tower hall director declined request to comment on the incident.
Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs said he is pleased with how police, students and staff handled the situation.
“(Students and staff) worked together to help identify the stolen property and we’re very happy that there was that level of cooperation,” he said.
Some Morrill Tower residents said they were aware of the recent thefts but are not worried about their belongings being stolen.
“I’m not paranoid,” said Weston Zernechel, a second-year in sport industry and Morrill Tower resident.
Zernechel said he takes basic precautions such as making sure his door is locked and locking up his laptop when he leaves.
Jason Labroo, a second-year in health science and Morrill Tower resident, said he takes similar defensive measures.
“I keep (my laptop) locked in a drawer when I don’t use it,” Labroo said.
Signs have been posted around the building offering a reward for a stolen laptop, he said, and has recently noticed more police officers on his floor and in the Morrill lobby.
Leaving doors open and unlocked “can be an invitation to trouble, especially if someone unauthorized has been let into the building,” Isaacs said.
The Lantern reported on Feb. 5 on an additional dorm theft on South Campus, where about $4,550 worth of items was taken from three dorm rooms in Baker Hall East at about 4 a.m. on Jan. 26.
A non-OSU student who is “not from the Columbus area,” is a suspect in the case, Baker East hall director Halea Hatten said in an email.
Isaacs said he encourages students to be aware of their surroundings and report any unusual behavior to prevent future thefts and other campus crimes.
“See something, say something,” he said. “That can be a very great help in preventing problems and following up on problems.”

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