Seven incidents of theft at Student Family Housing — which account for about $10,700 worth of jewelry — have been reported to the UNM Police Department within the past month. Four of the police reports were dated March 24. However, most of the thefts occurred in February.
According to the reports, many of the victims believed their missing jewelry had been lost. However, after speaking with neighbors and realizing others were experiencing the same situation, the residents chose to report the jewelry as stolen.
Lt. Tim Stump, UNMPD’s public information officer, said the department has leads, but would not comment further about individual suspects.
Part of the initial investigation included looking into the maintenance staff and other employees who had access to the residences, and determining which staff had keys for the complex and had work orders, he said.
There was no sign of forced entry on any of the residences, according to the police reports.
Stump said the thefts are connected.
In order to obtain entry into any residence, a code is required to unlock the outer gate and keys are necessary to enter into any apartment, he said.
Wayne Sullivan, director of residence life and student housing, said residents were asked to file police reports and meet with UNMPD when it became apparent that the incidents were not isolated.
“It was challenging because the initial reports weren’t many, and they were spread out over a period of time,” Sullivan said. “It was challenging for us to see what we could do.”
On March 26, in an email sent to Student Family Housing residents, housing administration said they were taking steps to help prevent future thefts.
Among those steps were updating the keys for the complex, as well as installing an electronic key-tracking system. Also, all staff and University contractors are to be escorted when entering apartments and will use individually issued keys, according to the email.
There was no specific pattern to the thefts, so the prevention steps are broad, he said.
Sullivan said this is the first time he has experienced something quite like this in his time as director.
Gauhar Sabih, a doctoral candidate of civil engineering, said he has lived in Student Family Housing for one year. Last week, Sabih said he filed a police report after the email was sent to the residents.
He reported a set of gold jewelry stolen, which included earrings, necklace, rings and a bracelet, worth around $8,000 in total, he said. The set had more sentimental value then monetary value, he said, because the jewelry was his wife’s wedding set.
“It was really unfortunate these things have been going on in Student Family Housing,” Sabih said. “I couldn’t imagine these things could happen.”
Aside from the residents themselves, only the housing and maintenance staff have keys to the residences, he said.
Because it is an ongoing investigation, Stump and Sullivan would not comment on who had keys before the prevention steps were installed.
“We don’t want to inhibit (the investigative) process in any way, including commenting on the specifics of their investigation or the preventative measures we are taking,” Sullivan said in an email. “It is to everyone’s benefit that the situation be solved as quickly as possible.”
Sabih suggested maintenance staff should be available in the evenings and weekends so the residents could be present while employees are in their homes.
“It should be the best place to live, and we still think that ... but these things should not happen,” Sabih said. “The housing office, the staff, they should do something; they only replaced the locks.”
Stump said some steps could be taken to prevent thefts, such as keeping valuable items secured and reporting suspicious activity or missing items.
“If anyone else notices (things) have been missing or came up missing, get with UNMPD and file a report and give information,” Stump said.
Lauren Marvin is a culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @LaurenMarvin.