Several Branford College residents returned this fall to find items had been stolen from storage, but were surprised to see that whoever infiltrated the college’s storage space favored books over more expensive items.

The thief or thieves broke into storage in the squash courts and several other areas where students had stored their belongings at their own risk, Branford College Master Steven Smith said in an e-mail. The suspects then opened many of the boxes Branford students had stored and scattered the contents, he said.

Smith said there was no evidence of forced entry and said it looked like an “inside job,” presumably by someone with a key. He said the University had suspects in the case but declined to comment further.

“It happened sometime during July, I believe, although I do not know if an exact date is known,” Smith said. “I suspect that it [was] something that may have happened over a space of time rather than during one night.”

Branford was hosting students involved in summer programs from early July to early August, but Smith said those students did not have access to the space.

Branford and Jonathan Edwards Custodial Supervisor Paul Catalano was the first to discover the theft, Smith said. Catalano declined to comment. Yale Police could not be reached for comment.

Smith sent an e-mail to Branford students Aug. 20, informing them of the security breach. In the message, he encouraged students to cooperate with one another, file police reports and consider making a claim on their homeowners’ insurance.

Kristi Jones ’05 said the e-mail left her wondering about the extent of the crime.

“I was really upset initially,” Jones said.

Jones, who said she believes about 10 paperback books were taken from her boxes, is unsure how optimistic to be about having her books returned. She said she has filed a police report.

“I’d hope to [have them returned], but I’m not sure what happened to all the books,” Jones said.

When Branford students returned, students could look for their belongings among unclaimed items in an ad hoc “transit area” in the basement’s television room.

Branford master’s aide Nika Hasegawa ’06 said the college is coping gracefully with the burglary.

“I haven’t run into that many complaints,” Hasegawa said. “It’s upsetting — but people are handling it well.”

Diana Feygin ’06, another master’s aide, said more expensive items tended to be passed over.

“Everybody’s [boxes] were broken into,” Feygin said. “They mostly took books — some of the DVD players were left untouched.”

Ruth Yemane ’05 said around 30 of her books were stolen and estimated their value at no less than $300. She said she would probably file a police report.

“I think people are mostly annoyed,” Yemane said. “They expected their stuff to be safe.”

Master Smith said the college will change the locks on its storage next summer to make sure no one has access to the areas.