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Man robs $5,000 in Outdoor Program gear: new Montag security options being considered

Updated: Dec 1, 2021

Noah Dantes

Contributing Writer

The Montag Center, located on the south side of Doney. Photo by Anushka Srivastav.

In the early hours of Monday, Nov. 8, a man broke into the Montag Center and stole $5,000 worth of property from the Outdoor Program’s gear closet. Ross Stout, the director of Campus Safety, said that the Montag entrance by the Gender Resource and Advocacy Center (GRAC) was found propped open. “The assumption is that this person tailgated in behind someone who opened the door and didn’t look behind them as they continued walking,” Stout said. “They [the robber] didn’t use force to get into the building.”

Campus Safety was alerted to the break in by cleaning staff, and when officers arrived on the scene, the man fled and was not caught. The robber left behind a bike with a small trailer filled with Outdoor Program property. Stout said that the robber is assumed to have made multiple trips to and from Montag, since property was found missing despite the recovery of the trailer. Stout added that while the exact details of the break-in remain unknown, he does not believe that Montag is at an elevated risk of a future break-in.

The Outdoor Program’s gear closet is located on the first floor of Montag, underneath the stairs leading up to the GRAC. It has its own key lock, separate from the card swipe access system to the building. Tony Stafford, the director of Campus Recreation, said over email he is “not sure how the robber got past the gear closet lock.” Stafford added that a door guard has since been installed on the gear closet door “just in case tools were used to open the door.”

The bike shop, which is maintained by the Outdoor Program and also located on the first floor of Montag, was also robbed [earlier this semester] of about $1,000 worth of property. Stafford said that for the bike shop, the space had been left unlocked because they were in the process of moving the shop to a new space and new keys had not been made yet.

Several measures have been taken to increase security since the break-in. Starting after Thanksgiving break, Montag swipe access will be limited to 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. “We found limited swipes post-midnight,” Stafford said. “It was an easy decision.” Stafford also said that all Outdoor Program staff members have been retrained to ensure all doors are locked when the space is closed, and that Campus Safety presence has been increased during the evening and nighttime hours.

Andrea Hugmeyer, the director of the GRAC, said that she reiterated to her staff to make sure the community door is locked when they close up for the day. She also is reminding her staff to not take on any solo shifts. “I want to ensure that staff feel safe and comfortable going in and out of the doors,” Hugmeyer said. “I also want to alleviate them of responsibility to respond to a concern of that nature [the break-in]. Granted, the break-in happened in the middle of the night, so it’s unlikely that a SARA will be here should it happen again, but I don’t want to take any chances.”

Campus Safety is considering installing security cameras in Montag, but no decision has been made. “I’m not anti-camera, but nor do I see it as the panacea of mitigation, because unlike places like casinos that spend millions of dollars for someone to watch cameras, we’re never going to have the kind of resources to have someone watch all these cameras,” Stout said. He added that the university’s current cameras are mainly there to record video for later review in the case of an incident.

When Montag was first built, it was designed to contain security cameras, although the actual installation was cut from the final budget—Stout said that there are “at least ten” places where cameras could easily be installed on Montag’s ceiling. “It wouldn’t be all that difficult to add cameras,” Stout said.

There is already funding available if Campus Safety decides to install security cameras in Montag. Campus Safety received money this summer through the university’s deferred maintenance infrastructure project, which will go towards an all-new integrated security system that includes fire alarms, intrusion alarms, the emergency notification system, door access and security cameras. The installation of this new integrated system will happen within the next three years, but could happen as soon as the semester break.

Campus Safety also has the capacity to support additional cameras: it recently updated its software system. The old software only had the capacity for 49 cameras, but the new software has unlimited capacity and will be linked to and supported by the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), which uses the same software. Before the break-in, Campus Safety was already planning to install new cameras around campus, including on the University Center roof above the Bistro, the Smith Auditorium roof and Fine Arts West.

The new cameras will not be actively monitored, but viewed on an as-needed basis. “If someone were to alert us of a situation, then we would go to the cameras and try to track them,” Stout said. “So it’s not somebody sitting there waiting to see something happen, but we wouldn’t wait until the next day to get the video, we would try to track that immediately.” It is these new cameras that are being considered for installation in Montag.

Hugmeyer said that her primary concern is maintaining the confidentiality of students accessing the GRAC for advocacy services. “I’m not opposed to using security cameras as an option, I just think we need to strategically place it in a spot that’ll maintain confidentiality,” Hugmeyer said. She added that she asked to be included in future conversations surrounding increased security at Montag, and that her request was granted.

When asked about the confidentiality concern, Stout said: “I’m absolutely sensitive to that, and I’m 100% certain we can coexist. We can put surveillance cameras in Montag, if we determine that to be a mitigation strategy, without placing them in areas or looking at areas that compromise the confidentiality of individuals using that space [the GRAC].”

Both Stout and Stafford emphasized the importance of closing swipe doors and not holding them open for other people.

“The safety and security of our students and access to resources is a priority,” Hugmeyer said. “I think we are in a difficult place of having to remain hypervigilant while also not causing too much alarm or distress.”

Neither Outdoor Program coordinator could be reached for comment.

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