On January 6, 2023, during winter break, Baxter and Montag complexes were broken into by an unidentified individual with criminal intent. This unauthorized entry caused several items to be stolen from the Outdoor Program office. Items were also stolen from a dorm in Baxter and a bike from the Baxter bike storage, as reported in the Campus Safety report.
According to Outdoor Program Coordinator Aliya Schwartz (‘23), the break-in occurred right before a week-long training trip, and several items necessary for the trip were stolen from the office, including sweatshirts, food, and two pot sets. “We got out later than we wanted to, but we didn’t cancel [the trip],” Schwartz stated.
“This is not the first time we’ve been broken into. We asked for security cameras last year. We hope that whoever keeps getting our stuff is putting it to good use.” Schwartz mentioned concerns regarding Willamette’s response to the incidents. “What’s not good is how the University has handled it,” they concluded, referring to the number of thefts at the Outdoor Program Office despite the new security cameras and other measures.
Andrew Fresh is the new director of Campus Safety and Emergency Management. Fresh stated that the individual had entered Baxter through a window, although specific details about the entry are not publicly available due to security reasons. Fresh added that the individual “found their way through Baxter, down into Montag, where the thefts occurred. Things were already set out in plain view for a group that was leaving that next morning.”
In attempts to increase security, Willamette has installed additional alarm systems throughout Baxter and Montag, as well as increased lighting and camera surveillance. Currently, there is no identified suspect, although Fresh stated that the individual was probably “a homeless person in the area, by way of the items that were taken, as well as the mode of entry.” He additionally mentioned that “if a suspect is identified, they will be fully prosecuted.”
“The criminal element that we have around the Salem community is targets of opportunity. People are looking for things to steal. I would recommend that everybody locks their doors, makes sure that their windows are properly secured and their blinds are closed, especially over extended breaks. It is a community effort; we need to look after one another. If you see something that looks wrong, call [Campus Safety],” Fresh concluded.
This is not the first security incident the Outdoor Program office has experienced, since similar break-ins were reported in November and December of 2021. After both incidents, former Director of Campus Safety Ross Stout stressed the unlikeliness of new break-ins in Montag thanks to added security measures. Yet, the Outdoor Program office has had three in slightly over a year, which resonates with Schwartz’s concerns over Willamette’s handling of the security incidents. In addition, a recent spike in bike thefts (in Baxter and other halls) raises security concerns and mistrust from members of the Willamette community in fear of being subject to theft or other security violations.
As new security measures are created by Campus Safety, students are left with uncertainty and skepticism, hoping this is finally the last security incident the Outdoor Program office has to experience.