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Two Custodians Accused of Theft

by Alyson Dame

People watching things in the Audio/Visual room of Mudd Library this fall may also have been being watched. Due to a series of thefts of A/V equipment last spring and this fall, security cameras were installed. On Jan. 10 the Oberlin Police Department received a complaint from Oberlin College of theft, including a video containing suspicious behavior. Two Oberlin College custodians were later arrested for the alleged theft. Both pled not guilty in their arraignments on Jan. 19.

Despite suspicions of foul play and an upcoming pre-trial, the two custodians have returned to work in their original capacities. They have "the same duties they had before this issue came up," Director of Human Resources Ruth Spencer said.

"There were a couple of custodians who were under question. But the library hires a lot of people, so it wasn't just custodians that we were worried about," Spencer said. The videos were only on during times when Security suspected theft was taking place.

Vice President of Finance Andy Evans estimated the value of stolen goods at over $250, including a DVD player last year. "It's not our practice to film our employees. It is our practice to secure areas where there might be theft," Evans said. Although monitoring in the A/V room will not continue, there are cameras strategically placed around campus in areas where theft could be an issue such as the museum or computer center. "It's my responsibility to protect the assets of the institution, but there are ways to do that that are acceptable to the community. [The cameras] are not focused on the human being, but aimed at the security of the assets," Evans said.

According to Spencer, the security cameras did not help to identify any culprits. "There was a loss of some very valuable A/V equipment over a period of time and there was an effort to put some monitoring equipment there but it was not discovered," Spencer said. At the suggestion of former Director of Security Keith James, the cameras were installed. "It was a futile attempt," Spencer said.

While Spencer spoke about the issue in past tense, others spoke of an ongoing investigation. "We did turn up some evidence of petty theft which we turned over to Security," Director of Libraries Ray English said. English believes that the issue is "being handled the right way and that is in a supervisory way."

A security officer reported the issue to the Oberlin police. "I played a very small role in this," Interim Director of Safety and Security Bob Jones said. "I handed over the matter to the police department and they investigated the matter. The activity that was recorded on there was questionable."

Jones believes that Oberlin Security's role is to deal with "minor and internal" conflicts or problems, but that any felonies should be referred to the town police.

Detective Dave Jasinksi of the Oberlin Police Department had no comment. Jasinksi recalls receiving the tapes at the beginning of January. "It's an ongoing investigation," he said. James Walsh is the prosecutor, but was not prepared to comment.

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Copyright © 2001, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 129, Number 13, February 9, 2001

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