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Laundry larceny: Richard residents report clothing gets lost in the wash

On February 28, 2014

By Emily C. Tate Senior Staff Writer Hundreds of dollars of expensive designer clothing have been stolen from the laundry room in the basement of Richard Hall over the past few months. The female residents of Richard, specifically those belonging to the Delta Gamma sorority, said they have been enraged, annoyed and inconvenienced by the entire ordeal. Little has been done to resolve the issue, according to them. While several brands and styles of clothing have been stolen, there is a recurring trend of Lululemon apparel being targeted. Lululemon Athletica has risen in popularity on Miami's campus in the recent past. Known for its yoga apparel, Lululemon products can be very costly; a pair of standard yoga pants, for example, ranges from about $80 up to $130. Jackie Mains said she was extremely upset when she realized she was missing a pair of Lululemon leggings and a green yoga tank from her load of laundry in November. Mains said she uses the laundry service at Miami and, like any other Monday night at 11 p.m., she had dropped her laundry bag off in the laundry room to be picked up, thinking nothing of it. It was not until the following morning that she noticed several items missing. "It was probably $200 worth of clothing," she said. "It seemed like they rummaged through it and took what they liked then just left everything else." Mains was not the only victim in Richard. She said she knows of four girls in her sorority alone who have been affected by laundry thievery. She has also heard of similar cases in other residence halls in Central Quad. "I also know it has gone on in Hamilton, and even in MacCracken at the beginning of the year," she said. Mains has only heard of these stolen items as being specifically Lululemon apparel as well. Sophomore Sarah Buop, who lives just down the hall from Mains in the Delta Gamma corridor, was also affected by the larceny in Richard. Buop had decided to do her laundry late at night - approximately 1 a.m., she said. She waited until early the following morning to go down and get it. "I went and got [my laundry] before class and found my Ralph Lauren long-sleeved shirt was missing and my [Delta Gamma] spirit jersey was in the trash," she said. "It was buried in the garbage with other trash thrown on top of it." Buop and several of the other girls in her sorority agreed that it was an act of malice toward all of them. She consulted the Resident Director of Richard Hall, Crystal Harris. "She said I could file a police report," Buop said. "But then she ignored my emails about it. I went to her multiple times but she was no help." Buop said even after other girls in the corridor reported missing clothing - this time all Lululemon - Harris did not provide much assistance. However, Harris said she did hold an all-hall meeting for the affected residents to speak about the issue and voice their concerns, and there, the girls were able to advocate for what they would like to see moving forward. "Richard Hall Community Leadership Team also came together with the RAs and hosted community meetings to raise awareness of the concerns," Harris said. Both Buop and Mains said they, among several other residents, suggested during the all-hall meeting that security cameras be installed in the laundry room to prevent future thievery from occurring. "When I went to talk to Crystal, she said they couldn't put any cameras in the laundry room because of some kind of rule for the dorms," Mains said. "Because of privacy and financial reasons, she told us they just couldn't do it." President of the Residence Hall Association (RHA) Caitlin Donohue disagreed and said a security camera is something the RHA would be able to authorize. "A security camera is pretty necessary when clothing is being stolen from the laundry room," Donohue said. "The Resident Director should really look into that." Donohue said she understood the installation of security cameras often raises questions of privacy invasion, but not in this case. She questioned whether people really need privacy in laundry rooms. "I don't see this as being an invasion of privacy, if that's what [the residents] are being told," Donohue said. While both Buop and Mains said they were frustrated and annoyed by their clothing being stolen, that was not their primary concern. "Because of what happened with my spirit jersey, all of us [in Delta Gamma] were upset, because it felt like someone was acting against us," Buop said. "With all of the Lulu stuff, we just don't feel like it's safe anymore. I have to wait to do my laundry until I can stay down there and watch it the whole time." Lt. Ben Spilman of the MUPD said theft on Miami's campus is not a rare occurrence. "Theft is probably one of the most commonly-reported criminal offenses on this college campus," he said. "Not everything that is stolen is of enormous value - from textbooks left on a table to jackets and construction equipment. Essentially, if something is left unattended, there is potential for theft to occur." According to him, though it does not justify the act, the items in the laundry room were left unattended, making it a more favorable situation for someone to come in and take them. Spilman encouraged crimes of this caliber to be reported immediately, as many police investigations are time-sensitive. "Obviously, the sooner a crime is reported the better chances we have of being able to do something constructive," Spilman said. "If it's reported right when it happens, it will really allow us to focus our resources on where and when it happened. If it's a couple weeks or months old, we can't really do anything more than document the incident." Buop said she considered reporting the crime to MUPD after Harris encouraged her to do so, but ultimately decided against it. Reporting it now, months after the event occurred, would not likely produce any worthwhile results, according to Spilman. Spilman also said MUPD's biggest battle with on-campus theft is awareness. "People come to Miami and feel like this is a safe place, so they treat their residence halls like they are at home," he said. "[Because of this], there is sometimes a false sense of security - in residence halls, you are sharing that home with maybe 300 people, not all of whom you know." Mains identified with this false sense of security all too well. "Coming to school, you kind of rely on your dorm to be a safe environment," she said. "It's scary knowing you're living somewhere where things are constantly being stolen. That's certainly not ideal." Since the incidents in November, the residents of Richard Hall now wait in the laundry room while their clothes are being washed, for fear of something else being stolen. At present, this is the only solution that have been offered to them, however, Harris said, it seems to be effective. "Since these measures have been taken, there have been no other occurences of theft in Richard Hall," she said.

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