An arrest has been made after a team of three thieves stole unattended items in buildings across campus over the past few weeks.
The items taken include wallets with credit cards and electronics such as an iPhone and laptop, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said. Six thefts occurred in five Penn buildings, with the first theft on June 6.
The leader of the team was apprehended on June 20 at about 1 p.m., Rush said. The man got off a Septa bus at 38th and Spruce streets, hurried to the School of Veterinary Medicine on Spruce Street, and followed someone with access into the building. Two officers in the area recognized the man from previously captured CCTV video footage and made the arrest inside the vet school.
The man allegedly stole items from Claudia Cohen Hall, Steinberg Conference Center, Schattner Center School of Dental Medicine, Graduate School of Education Building, and the vet school.
Rush said the leader cooperated and provided information on the locations of some stolen items. She added Penn Police is currently working on getting the recovered items back to their owners. The leader also identified a male and female who assisted in the operations. While the team of three worked in tandem, Rush said the leader in custody is the only person who physically went into buildings and stole items.
The Division of Public Safety notified the Penn community of the investigation and the arrest in an email on June 21. The email read that DPS is working with Philadelphia Police and Drexel Police to identify the additional individuals who have been working to steal items.
The email also included information about DPS’s Operation Building Safe program, which was launched in 2011 to secure entry points to Penn buildings.
“All Operation Building Safe buildings have one door you can get in through a security officer or technology through a video intercom system that a human being will answer and ask to show ID and the person will be allowed in,” Rush said.
Although some of the buildings the leader entered are Operation Building Safe compliant, Rush said the man would “piggy back” into buildings by following students and faculty with access into the buildings. If a stranger asks to be let into a building by knocking on the glass, the best approach is not to approach the person but rather to direct them to the visitor’s entrance through the glass, she said.
Although the thefts did not seem to be a “big operation” and most Penn buildings have the “highest level of security,” Rush urged people to use their best instincts.
“Safety and security are shared responsibility and we really need the help of our community to assist us to making sure we help stop crime,” Rush said. “If behavior seems off, don’t get involved. Call us.”