Zurez Khan ’12 was up late studying in his common room Wednesday morning when a stranger walked in just before 6 a.m. He looked surprised to see Khan, and they made eye contact for an awkward moment.
“Hey, sorry, I meant to go to fifth floor,” the man said as he left, Kahn recalled.
But Khan did not believe him — the fifth floor is a suite of girls. So he called the police.
They found the intruder in the basement and arrested him. The suspect, 23-year-old Kevin Smith, has been charged with burglary, larceny and interfering with an officer. Police say Smith has prior arrests for similar crimes; he was convicted of larceny in August 2008.
“Smith is well known to YPD,” Lt. Steven Woznyk said. Nothing was taken and no one was hurt in the incident, he said.
The trespasser had been able to enter the room because it was propped open with a hanger. Doors left unlocked are the cause of most of Yale’s burglaries, Wozynk said. But all six Saybrugians interviewed said while the burglary concerned them, it is not enough to make them lock their doors.
Indeed, in the very entryway where the robbery occurred, hangers propped open five doors, and the lock on another door was taped over. Even the room that was robbed still had a hanger in the door Wednesday night.
In an e-mail about the incident to Saybrook students, Master Paul Hudak blamed what he called the “widespread” practice of keeping doors unlocked.
“We take your safety very seriously, but we need for you to do your part,” he wrote. “Please, lock your doors, and stay alert.”
But regardless of whether students lock their doors, the fact remains that before Smith even reached students’ rooms, he somehow got through Saybrook’s main entrance and the entryway door.
YPD would not comment on how Smith was able to get though the main entrance and entryway.
The University does not punish Yale students for leaving suite doors open and there are no plans to change that, said University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith, who oversees campus security. But she added that students would prevent the vast majority of burglaries if they closed their doors.
“I’d like people to start taking more responsibility,” she said. “We don’t want to run around fining everyone.”
But Highsmith acknowledged that at its heart, the problem is one of convenience versus security.
“We’re just asking that students give up a little convenience for a lot more security,” she said.
Yale Security officers have been instructed to watch out for unlocked or open doors and to secure them immediately, she said.
“The burglary really scares me, but right now I keep my door propped open and I am going to keep it propped open,” said a Saybrook sophomore who did not wish to be identified because he is breaking the rules.
The number of larcenies on campus is up this year, Highsmith said Tuesday.