As Chelsea Mishan walked down her residence hallway in Houston House on Feb. 18, leaving her door unlocked to go chat with a floormate, she noticed a man she’d never seen before emerge from the stairway. Without giving it a second thought, she went back to her conversation.
Mishan never would’ve imagined what happened next.
“I look down the hall and the man is leaving my room, that same man,” Mishan, a first-year in forestry, fisheries and wildlife, said. “I check my room, and all of my cash is gone and all of my roommate’s cash is gone.”
With the recent string of burglaries occurring in North Campus residence halls, Nevian Brown, Houston House resident adviser, said everyone ranging from office assistants to resident advisers and students are on guard for the suspect.
“As a resident adviser, we’re warned that anyone can come in at any moment in time, and we need to make sure we can protect our home as much as possible,” Brown, a second-year in health sciences, said.
After Mishan saw the man leave her room she confronted him about what he was doing in her room.
“He was like, ‘Oh, there was a dollar outside of your room,’ and he took a dollar out of his pocket and said, ‘I thought it was yours, so I wanted to go see if it was yours,’’’ Mishan said.
Mishan said she did not believe him and felt that something wasn’t quite right. She said her suspicions were confirmed when the man called the elevator but continued down the hallway instead of boarding.
After checking that all of her valuables were still safe, including her phone, iPad and both her and her roommates’ computers, Mishan said she didn’t think twice about anything else being stolen and alerted Brown, her resident adviser.
Brown said she followed procedure by informing all other resident advisers of the incident and notifying the hall director, who advised her to call the senior staff on call — the person who responds to all of the emergency events in the complexes.
It wasn’t until one of Mishan’s friends informed her of a similar burglary happening in the same building around the same time of 5 p.m., in which all of his credit cards were stolen, that Mishan felt triggered to check her wallet, where she was shocked to discover that all of her and her roommates’ cash was stolen — a total of roughly $60.
She said that if she hadn’t seen the suspect leave her room, there’s a possibility she would’ve never known he was there at all, writing off the missing cash as if misplaced or spent.
Ohio State reminds all students to lock their doors, Dan Hedman, a spokesman for the university, said, “even if they’ve only walked down the hall to a friend’s room or are using the restroom or study space.”
Just a floor below Mishan, around the same time, police were handling the burglary incident of another student, Adam Crock, a first-year in electrical engineering.
Crock said that while napping in his room after his physics exam, his roommate stepped out of the room to go to the bathroom, flipping the latch to prop the door open.
His roommate came back to Crock’s wallet on the floor in the hallway outside their door, where he thought Crock had just dropped it on his way in from the exam.
“I knew I hadn’t, so I immediately checked, and all my cash, credit and debit cards had been stolen,” Crock said.
Both Mishan and Crock filed police reports, and ultimately a public safety notice was issued by the Ohio State Department of Public Safety.
Dave Isaacs, a spokesman for the Office of Student Life, said that in addition to encouraging students to file police reports, they follow up with students involved to make sure they are “properly supported and connected with appropriate campus resources.”
As a resident adviser, Brown said she supports students who have been a victim of theft by performing wellness checks to see if they’re handling the situation well, “whether that means helping them file their police report or checking on them after the incident has been dealt with.”
Mishan said she was worried about how someone could get in so easily, and raised the possibility of “tailgating,” where someone follows an individual with access into the building.
“It could be someone’s parent, it could be someone’s sibling, it could be a total random stranger like this man, or it could be someone off the street who was just waiting for someone to walk into the building at the right time,” Mishan said.
Isaacs said that office assistants are trained to be aware of individuals as they enter the building, and he strongly encourages residents to avoid allowing anyone to enter a residence hall without swiping in.
Office assistants, such as Meghan Yaeger, a second-year in chemical engineering, said that OA’s have been made aware of all security breaches that take place in residence halls and the front desk is on high alert for the suspect.
Yaeger said she understands how students’ friendly natures could lead to tailgating but encourages them to put safety first.
“I understand that students don’t want to be that person that just closes the door in someone else’s face, but it is a security risk,” Yaeger said.
Both Mishan and Crock recognized that their common error was leaving the door unlocked, which they each said they’ll never do again.
“Listen to your orientation leaders and resident advisers when they tell you not to deadbolt your doors as a way to keep them propped open. Lock your doors,” Brown said. “That’s just the best way to make sure everything’s safe.”