On Thursday evening at around 5 p.m., JM ’13 found herself chasing after a man she had just found going through her brieflyunattended bag on the second floor of McCabe Library.
“I was reading at my thesis carrel, which is tucked away in a quiet corner of McCabe, when an early evening caffeine craving hit me.” JM said in an email. She encountered the man as she was returning from the water fountain.
“When I rounded the corner, I saw down the aisle a man standing over my tote bag with my unzipped wallet in one hand and my cash and credit card in the other,” she said.
JM, who chose not to be identified by her full name, reckons that the thief spent some time watching her and attempted to steal her possessions once he thought she had left for the bathroom. “He must have thought I had gone to the restroom and was startled that I was back so soon. It’s creepy to think I was being watched,” she said.
When she asked the man what he was doing, he made an unconvincing excuse about finding her wallet on the ground and tried to walk away after shoving everything back in her bag. JM picked her bag off the ground, and started following him, but the delight caused her to lose sight of him.
Another witness, Taylor Hodges ’13, said that the man appeared to have another accomplice — something JM could not confirm — and that both men looked to be in their mid-20’s and “way older than Swarthmore students.” JM phoned Public Safety and informed the librarians of the attempted theft.
The witness’ observations of the two men and their estimated age were confirmed by Public Safety. “Upon further investigation, it was determined that there were two unidentified males observed exiting the area. Public Safety officers checked the area but the subjects exited the area prior to arrival and were not able to be identified,” Associate Director of Public Safety Josephine Gallagher said. It remains unclear whether any other students in McCabe were robbed that night or if JM was the first attempt.
Public Safety has informed JM that they will go through the images caught on McCabe’s security cameras, which could lead to the thieves being caught in the future. Their pictures have been put up on McCabe’s “Wall of Fame,” reserved for suspected thieves, and JM is confident that the man she caught red handed will be recognized and caught if he ever returns to campus.
On the issue of security in McCabe and the campus in general, JM acknowledges that the open and welcoming atmosphere of the library is valued by the community and increased security measures would be expensive and cumbersome to implement. “In the absence of increased security measures, we need to rely on one another to keep the library secure,” she said.
Speaking to the college community on behalf of Public Safety, Gallagher wrote in an email, “The Department of Public Safety would like to remind students, staff and faculty to be alert to unfamiliar persons in your area and to contact Public Safety immediately to file a report with the Department of Public Safety for all items stolen or lost. All personal items such as laptops, purses, wallets and cell phones should always be secured and not left unattended.”
Public Safety has recorded the incident in their logs and made a note of it in the weekly summary of campus events that is sent to people across campus. Extra patrols in the area have also been instituted.
Taylor Hodges is a living & arts writer for The Phoenix. He had no role in the production of this article.