College Hill saw nine larcenies and one burglary this September, according to DPS data.
In September 2020, there were four larcenies and two burglaries; in 2019, there were three burglaries and 20 larcenies, while in 2018 there was one burglary and six larcenies.
“There’s always crime in Providence,” DPS Sergeant David Allsworth told The Herald. Allsworth encouraged students to follow “basic safety” precautions, such as locking doors and windows.
Students whose off-campus residences were broken into reported having belongings stolen, such as technology and money.
Stina Trollbäck ’22 recalled coming home after a night out Sept. 24 to discover her bedside table’s lamp knocked over. She then noticed an open desk drawer and recalled that one of her friends was robbed. Upon checking her backpack, she noticed that her laptop was missing.
Trollbäck’s roommate, Ari Brown ’22, told The Herald that the thief took three laptops, a large speaker, AirPods and “around $200 in cash from various wallets.” One of Brown’s friends had had her laptop stolen in a similar incident the prior weekend, and her rental laptop was also taken from their residence.
Trollbäck said that she then discovered scuff marks on the back door, which was left unlocked after the thief left.
Brown said she and her roommates called both the Providence Police and DPS, but she questioned whether they could recover the lost items. “We don’t think there’s much they can do at this point,” she said, but that the investigation into the incident remains ongoing.
Providence Police and DPS took note of what was stolen, and told them that they “probably (wouldn’t) find anything.”
Brown added that she and her roommates had heard antecdotally about an increase in robberies in the neighborhood.
Spencer Schultz ’22, a former Herald section editor, reported having his laptop and a pair of Beats headphones stolen on the night of Saturday, Oct. 9.
“My guess is that (the thief) scaled up the front porch to the second floor balcony and entered through the door which I guess had been unlocked,” he said, noting that it was unlikely that the thieves entered through the front or back doors of his apartment, which are always locked.
Schultz’s downstairs neighbors had been the victims of a break-in over the summer, making him more cautious of similar incidents among students living off-campus. But, unlike his neighbors, four of his roommates were home at the time of the break-in.
“It was really crazy to me that these people broke into a house that was literally occupied,” Schultz said. He added that the thief entered the occupied bedroom of one of his roommates before retreating.
“The physical loss of belongings is one thing, but I really felt like my space was violated and that was one of the most hurtful parts of it,” Schultz said.
After filing a report with DPS, Schultz said that he received an email from the department and a call from a University administrator offering support, describing the University’s response as “really accomodating.”
Despite the support offered, Schultz emphasized that the University ultimately puts the burden of tracking down stolen items onto students, as DPS advised him to search online marketplaces such as Craigslist for his stolen laptop. “In an ideal world, DPS would take some more proactive steps to help students go after their belongings,” he said.
Allsworth said that DPS frequently reaches out to students and “provides them with an assessment on the safety of their property to help protect them,” along with recommending renter’s insurance.
“We were upset to have lost the stuff,” Brown said. While she said she felt “lucky” that she and her friends were able to replace the stolen items, she said she felt her private space had been violated, as “people were in our house, in our space. They really went through all of my drawers in order to find the stuff.” Brown said that she has since hidden valuables after her friend was robbed. “They really had to dig through our stuff, and that was upsetting.”
“We thought that our house was safe, and now we don’t feel as safe,” Trollbäck said. She and her roommates have installed an alarm system, but she has still felt uneasy since her bed is near a window. Trollbäck still reiterated that she felt fortunate that she had the means to buy a new computer.
“We made a very conscious effort to tell everybody we know that lives in a first floor apartment to make sure everything is locked and to hide their computers,” she said.
“When we’re on campus, there’s a sense of insulation from the greater Providence community,” Schultz added. When he lived in an on-campus residence hall, he “felt completely comfortable leaving my dorm room unlocked with my laptop on my desk,” as opposed to the caution he now exercises living off-campus.
Allsworth said that if students feel unsafe in their residence, even if they live off-campus, “they can always contact” DPS. “We will go talk to them and give them a security assessment on their residency.”
“All they have to do is reach out to us. If anybody on campus feels unsafe, they should talk to us. We are a service that is available to them that is underutilized.” Allsworth added: “We can’t talk to every student that enters the University. We try to see if we can do a quick presentation, but that only goes so far. If a student reaches out to us, we will protect them in any way we can.”
If a student discovers their residence has been broken into, Allsworth urged them to first “call 911, then their second call should be to Brown police.”
With additonal reporting by Jack Borris