Upon returning from fall break, some members of Saybrook College returned to find their suites upturned and robbed.
On Monday, Saybrook Head of College Thomas Near sent a college-wide message citing three trespassing incidents over the break. According to the email, the incidents occurred as a result of many Saybrook College residents leaving their suite doors unlocked — leading the episodes to be classified as trespassing and not “break-ins.” Intrusions occurred not only on the grounds of the college, but also on Old Campus in Vanderbilt Hall, which houses Saybrook first years.
“Clearly these incidents are cause for serious concern,” Near wrote in the email. “We are all [creating] a most unsafe environment by not attending to the security of [our] space.”
On Oct. 19 at approximately 7:40 p.m., the Yale Police came across a male Hamden resident in the Saybrook courtyard, according to University spokesperson Karen Peart. The Yale Police Department had been investigating a theft complaint in the college when they recognized the individual, as he had been previously warned to stay off Yale property. The perpetrator was arrested for trespass in the first degree and was later identified as 54-year-old Jose Palanco.
But all the incidents could not be attributed to this single individual, according to Near’s Monday email, and the YPD investigation is ongoing. Saybrook College Dean Ferentz Lafargue declined to comment.
Saybrook College resident Grace Baghdadi ’22 told the News that money was stolen from her common room, but the rest of her suite’s belongings were left untouched.
“[They] ransacked the place,” Baghdadi told the News when asked about the other suites affected in her entryway. “Everything was overturned.”
A parent of one affected Saybrook first year — who requested anonymity to preserve her daughter’s privacy — told the News that she hopes students learn from the incidents and practice “common-sense safety.”
“I can see where it would be easy to feel safe in the ‘Yale bubble,’ but [Yale students] shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security,” she said.
This incident is not the first time that residential colleges have experienced security breaches in recent history. Last April, two Yale students were robbed at gunpoint in Timothy Dwight College. The gunman entered the suite after residents propped open the common room door with a hanger — a popular method used by students to facilitate convenient access to rooms. While no students reported physical injuries, the intruder fled with a stolen computer after being confronted.
Early in 2015, laptops and an iPad were stolen from a Lanman-Wright Hall suite. In a different incident later that week, multiple Trumbull students identified “suspicious individuals” roaming the college’s halls. Five robberies were reported in the college — one student found that his unlocked suite had been robbed of a laptop and an old wallet.
During this string of thefts, former Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway warned of the dangers of unlocked suites.
“Entryway doors should not be propped or have the lock taped over,” Holloway said in an email. “These are basic issues that every student knows and, frankly, that most ignore. We need to do better on this issue.”
Students across Yale’s campus commonly tape over the locks on their doors in order to avoid constantly carrying keys. Lane Fischer ’23, who lives in a suite with a taped door, told the News that he wouldn’t do so if he lived alone, but his suitemates want the convenience.
“It doesn’t totally bother me,” Fischer told the News. “But since the Saybrook break-ins, it does make me a bit more uneasy.”
Saybrook College opened in 1933 as part of the Memorial Quadrangle.
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