ECPD nabs gym locker bandit

by Beacon Staff • February 25, 2009

After his identity was discovered, a student who had stolen wallets from the men's lockers in the Emerson fitness center on five separate occasions was questioned by police on Feb. 3.

The thief was identified after extensive investigation by Emerson College Police Department officer Joe Murphy, who was assigned to four out of the five cases, with the fifth having been reported directly to the Boston Police Department by the victim of the theft.

Students who had had credit cards stolen gave their receipts to Murphy, and Murphy visited each of the establishments where the stolen cards had been used, including Starbucks, CVS, Borders and Best Buy. Murphy spoke with management and loss prevention at each of the establishments and was able to obtain pictures and video of the suspect as well as receipts signed by the suspect at the various stores.

The fitness center posted one of the pictures of the suspect in an attempt to have fitness center members identify the person. A victim of the thefts saw the photo and was able to successfully identify the student. The suspect called ECPD about the picture on Feb. 3 and he was invited to come down to the public safety department and be interviewed.

"It was definitely one person," said Deputy Chief Scott Bornstein. "You could see the pattern."

Bornstein was unsure of the punishment the suspect would receive. "That's [Dean] Ludman's department," said Bornstein. "We kind of turn everything over to him and see what happens."

The outcome of the case will also depend on whether the victims of the thief want to press charges. Ludman declined to comment on the possible punishment for the student.

Murphy said locker room thefts had occurred in the past, but only as isolated incidents. "This guy went back on a regular basis," he said.

Bornstein cites this as an example of why students shouldn't be afraid to notify the police about thefts of personal items. "This is why it's important to report them," he said. "Joe was able to develop patterns."

Despite the fact that the student responsible for the series of five thefts was caught, another theft of a T pass and watch from a locker room occurred on the same day, Feb. 3, after the original thief was caught. Because of this, Bornstein recommends that students continue to use the free lock policy at the fitness center.

Fitness staff members stated that staff would not be commenting on the thefts because of confidentiality and would only state the area in which the thefts occurred.

"I think there should definitely be legal action," said Tierra Bonser, a freshman theater studies major, of the student's punishment. "First of all, why would people be leaving stuff in unlocked lockers? [But] when we're at school, you would think it would be an environment where you wouldn't have to worry about that."