Breaking and Entering Incident Causes Student Safety Concern at UMassD

(Image via Dimella Shaffer)

Sports Editor: Shailyn Bacchiocchi

Email: sbacchiocchi@umassd.edu

On the morning of November 17, 2022, students and faculty received two emails regarding incidents that happened on University property over the previous two days. One was a breaking and entering in Spruce Hall, where eight people entered the building with masks/and or hoodies and stole thousands of dollars of property from a student’s room. The other was three people shot by a possible BB or pellet gun on Ring Road and in Lot 13. These incidents, the lack of preventative measures and the University’s subsequent response has been concerning for students, many of whom reached out to The Torch to report on this issue. This article is about the breaking and entering incident, to read about the pellet/BB gun incident, click to our other article here

The email from the University, received by students and staff at 8:51am, November 17th, 2022, reads as the following:

UMass Dartmouth community, 

In the early morning of November 16, the University Police responded to Spruce Hall for a breaking and entering, which occurred after 7 p.m. on November 15 and resulted in thousands of dollars in property stolen. The crime was planned, as a fire egress door was used to gain access to the building and then to the room, which had a faulty locking mechanism. Approximately eight people were involved, wearing masks and/or hoodies to hide their identities. 

If you have any information regarding this serious crime, please immediately notify the University Police (508.999.8107). 

Students should always report problems with locking mechanisms of residential doors immediately to their RA so that Facilities can quickly make the necessary repair. Please report suspicious behavior immediately, especially if anyone enters the building without swiping in. Allowing strangers to enter your residence hall can put you and the community at risk. 

Thank you, 

Deputy Chief Souza 

This, along with the pellet/BB gun incident email, immediately sparked student concern.

“Why is the school not giving us more information?” one student commented.

“So are we supposed to just wait?” another student asked.

Immediately, The Torch reached out to UMass Dartmouth’s Deputy Chief John Souza, for more details of the incident. The following was his response:

Due to on-going investigations with these particular incidents, I cannot comment on them.  I hope you understand.

Thank you,

Deputy Chief Souza

The Torch subsequently reached out to both VC Scott and Deputy Chief Souza regarding concerns for safety by students, but as of the time in which the article was originally posted, neither responded.*

Spruce is one of two newly built first-year resident halls on campus, and along with the other hall, Balsam is “the most modern living facility on campus” according to the Umass Dartmouth website

Students living in Spruce made The Torch aware that it had been known by residents that a fire escape door facing the parking lot had not been locking the way it was supposed to. Some students said that they had mentioned this to facilities and RAs, but with no response from Facilities, The Torch cannot confirm that it was previously reported.

Despite that, students have long been complaining about the safety measures within the school. At the previous Shake the Ship forums, many students mentioned the lack of light on campus, as well as the delayed responses from facilities and housing over issues within the residence halls. 

Just recently, unpredictable warm temperatures along with the central heating caused residence halls to become unbearably warm. When reaching out to housing and facilities, they explained to students that there was little that could be done.

Though this is a separate issue, it speaks to the slow, inadequate responses that the University has been providing students who reach out over their well-being. This includes the concerns of mold within student dorms, the complaints regarding inedible food from the Grove, and the lack of wifi on campus. All of these concerns have been brought up in many forums, to which the responses remain they are “working on it.”

These issues may seem more insignificant the longer they are not addressed, but very concerning incidents like the breaking and entering encapsulate the bigger problem of student concerns being overlooked. 

“Eight people coming in and robbing AT SCHOOL is crazy,” one student said.

“This shows the negligence of the school, just like how the wifi problem has not been solved.” another student posted.

“If the University doesn’t solve these incidents and still gives out parking tickets, I’m protesting,” another student wrote.

A protest has not been officially organized, as far as The Torch is aware, but many students have felt that the University has handled these issues so poorly that a protest feels appropriate to showcase their concerns. 

Along with the pellet/BB gun incident email, students took the breaking and entering email as an inadequate response from the University. Many felt it was too vague for how serious the incidents were, and that both emails did not address the immediate student safety concern.

Students were also quick to point out that the only advice given was to  “report problems with locking mechanisms of residential doors immediately to their RA so that Facilities can quickly make the necessary repair” and to “report suspicious behavior immediately, especially if anyone enters the building without swiping in,” which caused students to feel blamed despite their previous requests for safety measure changes. 

Overall, both of these incidents will need to be addressed further by the University, as it is clear there are a lot of unresolved issues and student concerns regarding their safety after these incidents.

*An email was sent out at 5:51pm, November 17, 2022, by VC Kimberly Scott to the students and staff. The email reads as follows:

Dear campus community,

I write to provide updates regarding two public safety incidents shared with the campus community this morning.

The first incident was a report of breaking and entering in Spruce Hall on the evening of November 15, 2022. University Police are currently questioning an individual in relation to this incident. We strongly believe this was an isolated, targeted instance of theft and believe there is no ongoing threat to the community.

The second issue was a report of a student that had been hit by a projectile from a possible BB gun or pellet gun in Lot 13 on the evening of November 16, 2022. University Police have identified the vehicle involved in the incident and the projectile used, which will help their investigation. Patrols are on the lookout for the vehicle should it enter campus again. We do not believe there is an ongoing threat to the campus community.

Both investigations are continuing, and University Police ask that if anyone has information regarding these crimes, please immediately notify them via phone at 508.999.8107. Remember, if you see something suspicious, please report it to the University Police. Thank you for your efforts to keep our campus safe.

All the Best, 

Kimberly M. Scott, PhD

From the perspective of students, The Torch staff wants to emphasize the importance of reporting any suspicious behavior, as well as the importance of advocating for your safety. As students, we have a right to feel safe, secure, and welcome on this campus. Whatever your thoughts are on the University’s response, we stress the notion that speaking out is important to bring change and movement. We stand by the victims, staff, and students of the University. We hope that the University will also accept the voices of students in their investigation and subsequent actions to deter incidents like this. If you have any information on either incident, please contact University Police (508.999.8107). 

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