By Vivian Ramirez
A chain of campus-wide thefts has raced through East Los Angeles College within the last two weeks.
Student’s backpacks, cell phones and other personal belongings have been stolen from the men’s gym, the pool area and the book store. The most affected location for these incidents is the gym, located in the hallway of the C1 fitness center by the temporary library.
Until last Tuesday, there were large shelves for students to leave their backpacks while they worked out. Within a two week period, five to six backpacks were stolen from those shelves. Amid the high number of thefts, campus sheriffs asked the fitness center to come up with an alternative solution to store student’s personal property.
The shelves were removed last Tuesday. Three backpacks were stolen on that day alone. One student had her backpack stolen twice. This is the first semester there have been thefts from the shelves, even though they have been in use for years.
The physical education department has placed posters warning students not to bring valuables to class and to inform them that if they do it, is at their own risk. The posters serve as a precautionary warning that campus sheriff asked the school to put up. Due to budget cuts, no one is designated to watch student’s belongings while they’re in class.
“With all the traffic, there’s hundreds of students walking in and out of the hallway,” said Richard Brown, men’s physical education chair.
“Instructors are checking students in and out. It puts too much of a burden on them to check backpacks every five minutes,” said Brown.
Instead, sheriffs recommend students to leave their backpacks in their cars and only bring their student I.D. and a few key items, such as car keys. For students who do not drive, there are lockers available in the gym facilities. However, students need to provide their own locks. The lockers are for day use only and nothing can be left there overnight.
“I feel in a sense that it was good they moved (the shelves). But students don’t want to go to their cars. It’s inconvenient, especially if you have another class,” said student Edgar Barberi.
Barberi’s Florida Marlin’s baseball hat was stolen from the shelves last Tuesday. The hat was tucked under his backpack.
“I kept my wallet, phone, keys and I.D. with me. I left my backpack in the car today.”
Yet other students are now leaving their backpacks on the floor where the shelves used to be. Due to safety hazards, backpacks are not allowed near the exercise equipment.
“It’s very heartbreaking to see a student come back from working out for an hour and find their backpack gone,” said Brown.
“Their car keys are in there, what if their car was stolen?” asked Brown.
Students have been cooperative said Brown.
“Hopefully when the fitness center is open, these problems will go away.”
The fitness center is currently occupied by the temporary library. Similar issues have occurred at the swimming pool. Students have reported cell phones and personal items missing.
“One student had $100 stolen from her purse,” said swim student Juan Villegas.
Villegas’s girlfriend Yuri Vivas also had a smart phone stolen from her. The incidents occurred about two weeks ago in the women’s locker room. With three classes occurring at one time, and over 100 students using the swim area, the traffic at the pool is high.
There are also lockers available to the students but they need to bring their own locks. Many students leave their personal belongings on the floor and in areas inside the locker room, unprotected.
“We already told all the students to leave their backpacks in sight while they’re swimming so we can keep an eye on it,” said Villegas.
Swim students are also encouraged to bring a lock. Another backpack belonging to a female student was reported missing from the racks outside the book store. The backpack was reported missing two weeks ago, about the same time the thefts began at the gym facilities.
Miguel Perez, book store assistant manager, said this is the first time a backpack has actually been stolen from the store. The book store provides racks and lockers for shoppers, since backpacks are not allowed inside.
Similar precautionary posters are placed on the racks. “Don’t leave purses or books on shelves.”
The lockers operate on a 25 cents deposit. Students put their backpacks in the lockers, insert a quarter, and receive a temporary key.
After shopping inside the book store, they put the key in the designated locker, and receive their quarter back. However, students have been using the lockers for their personal use, said Perez. Keys have also been taken from the lockers and about half of the lockers are not currently useable.
Students visiting the book store are allowed to take their text books and personal valuables inside the book store. Purses are also allowed inside the store. Valuables should not be left on the racks.