Campus Police and Peel Regional Police are investigating a string of thefts that occurred in the Student Centre this semester, amounting to an estimated value of $3,323.
Separate incidents were reported to Campus Police in different student club offices on the second floor of the building and one in a storage room on the first floor. All the incidents involved the theft of cash from the rooms, except for one in which water bottles and t-shirts were stolen, according to a Campus Police report.
Campus Police and a detective from Peel Regional Police’s 11 Division have been conducting interviews and analyzing security camera footage, photographs, and office door keycard logs with respect to the incidents over the last few months, said Len Paris, the special constable and manager of Campus Police.
“This is the first time we’ve seen consistently five thefts of cash in a short period of time all within the same area. I don’t think statistically you’ll see a number of thefts like that in the same locale, in a short time period, by different people,” said Paris in an interview. “Typically, it is the same people or same person. That’s my opinion, and I’d be very surprised if it was anything but that.”
The person or persons found guilty in these thefts may face criminal charges, added Paris, who mentioned that a few years ago criminal charges were pressed against a person who committed a cash theft at UTMSU.
Students and clubs can help prevent thefts by keeping their offices locked, monitoring to whom they give key access, and regularly depositing cash to their bank accounts or a secure deposit, said Paris. Campus Police can also hold sealed tamper-proof containers or locked cash boxes for urgent overnight storage.
“Most students are very conscious about their property and other peoples’ property, but if you have lax cash-handling procedures and lax money storage procedures, then it opens it up to abuse,” said Paris.
In response to the thefts, UTMSU has installed spring-loaded hinges on club offices’ doors to ensure the doors shut after being opened, and is making procedural changes to better inform all keycard holders in the building of their responsibilities, said Christopher Thompson, the president of UTMSU, in an email.
UTMSU and Campus Police met with student clubs that have offices in the building on November 16 and with tenants on November 23 to inform them of the incidents, get feedback on how to improve security, and discuss best practices for cash handling.
At the meetings, members of the Student Centre administration said the infobooth offers to sell tickets for club events on the clubs’ behalf so that the clubs don’t have to directly handle large amounts of cash.
“Students can help their students’ union by reporting all suspicious activity to UTM Campus Police immediately,” said Thompson.
The first incident took place between September 17 and September 19, two incidents took place between October 5 and October 18, and two incidents took place between November 6 and November 13. The last theft carried the highest value: $1,282 in cash.