Following a string of break-ins in Vanderbilt Hall earlier this year, another burglary in the residence hall on Monday evening has unnerved first-year Branfordians.
Jordy Mazza ’23 was approaching Entryway B of Vanderbilt Hall — which houses first-year students in Branford and Saybrook — when he noticed an unfamiliar man rummaging through the Branford thrift store collection box in the first-floor hallway. Mazza then saw the man go up the stairs and enter the third-floor hall bathroom, where he allegedly stole residents’ toiletries. The student reported the incident, first to his first-year counselor and then to the Yale Police Department.
“I followed close behind, [but] I didn’t want to have an interaction with him, in case it was kind of suspicious,” Mazza told the News.
The man — who Mazza guessed looked roughly 30 years old — appeared to be stuffing donated clothes into a bag until he saw Mazza, at which point he quickly climbed the stairs up to the third floor and entered the communal bathroom. Although he did not know the man, Mazza said that he incorrectly assumed that he might have been there to fix a broken sink and shower.
Still, he said he kept his ear to the door of his dorm room for nearly 15 minutes, until he heard the intruder leave the restroom. Mazza then entered the bathroom and did not notice anything unusual until he spotted his shower caddy and saw an electric razor missing. He and his floormates took stock of the varied and bizarre range of stolen toiletries — including electric razors, acne cream, deodorant, body wash, shampoo and a beard clipper.
“There was no indication of forced entry,” University spokesperson Karen Peart told the News. “Students are reminded to lock their doors and not to prop doors open at any time.”
Head of Branford College Enrique De La Cruz and Branford Dean Sarah Insley did not respond to requests for comment.
Lieutenant Brian Donnelly, who supervises the Yale Police Department’s Investigative Services Unit, said that due to the ongoing inquiry, they are not currently releasing information to the public.
“Since there have been at least two prior Saybrook-side Vanderbilt break-ins this year, it’s clear that we don’t have enough security,” said Matt Muellner ’23, who is Mazza’s roommate.
Monday’s incident on Old Campus follows a spate of intrusions that occurred in Vanderbilt Hall and Saybrook College in the fall of 2019. Some Saybrugians returned to their suites after fall break to find them ransacked, while others had money stolen from their common rooms. In a fourth incident, a female student entered her suite and encountered a man in a hoodie rifling through her belongings with a flashlight. Upon discovery, the intruder fled the scene.
Many of the incidents occurred in cases in which students left their doors unlocked over the October recess. While the Yale Police Department identified a suspect — 54-year-old Jose Palanco — in relation to one of these break-ins and arrested him for trespassing in the first degree, Saybrook Head of College Thomas Near said in an email that all the break-ins could not be attributed to a single individual.
Other residential colleges have experienced security breaches in recent history. In 2018, two students were robbed at gunpoint in Timothy Dwight College. In 2015, electronics began disappearing from Old Campus’s Lanman-Wright hall, and in the same week, Trumbull College experienced five separate robberies.
“Out of an act of kindness, if you hold a door for somebody, you might not think twice about it,” said Vanderbilt Hall resident Bhargav Ramesh ’23. “However, you might let in a thief.”
But following the break-in, Muellner added that he now thinks “twice about [who he lets in] every time.”
The Yale Police Department is located at 101 Ashmun St.
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