Unusual Break-In at Front Street Apartment Raises Concerns

Around 2:40 am on February 15 a break-in at a Front Street apartment took place. The apartment belongs to Garrett Brown and Thomas Adamo, both juniors on the lacrosse team at Hendrix. Although break-ins have been reported before, this particular case is different in that it appears to be a pointed theft.

“When they were in and out in 45 seconds that tends to make you believe that it was very coordinated and calculated and that they had it planned out…the positive thing is that this doesn’t look like it’s spill-over from the community,” Head of Public Safety Michael LeBlanc stated.

Thanks to the newly-installed cameras at Front Street, PSafe has full footage of the incident from both the front and back sides of Front Street. The footage captures the time and location of the burglars’ entry and exit and identifies four males as taking part in the break-in. What was stolen is sparse: a PlayStation 4 and Adamo’s wallet, which contained his ID, credit card, and $5 (the credit card was cancelled immediately). As for the PlayStation, arguably the most valuable of the items, the system was stolen without any of the cords and a half-broken remote.

“I also gave the serial number [of the PlayStation] to the police so they can’t pawn it because it’s in the system as stolen,” Adamo said.

The whole incident has raised concerns about the security of the Front Street apartments and its contemporaries like Huntington and the Hendrix Corner. The fact that Adamo and Brown’s door was locked brings up serious concerns about the quality of Hendrix facilities. From the video that was recorded, it is apparent that two men had to work together to break down the door. LeBlanc understands concerns about door sturdiness, but he also thinks the manner of the break-in says something.

“In one sense you want to say that the door locks are not flimsy because it took two people to kick that door in, and even if you have a deadbolt lock, if you use enough force something’s going to give way,”LeBlanc said.

Yet, after further inspection by Brown, there may be some legitimacy to students’ concerns.

“I’ve done different contract work on apartment buildings…and one of the main things that contractors do to save money is use cheaper, shorter screws…I’ve shown the screw that was in our door and the 2-inch screw that you are supposed to use in the door, and everyone has been shocked by the difference,” Brown stated.

Although it should be noted that Hendrix was not responsible for building the apartments at Front Street (and therefore the installation of improper screws), the fact remains that the facilities may not be as safe as they could be. Brown noted that Dean Wiltgen is looking to remedy the situation, and yet it may be that shorter nails are not the only issue with Hendrix facilities. After watching the video several times, PSafe and the Conway Police Department still have not been able to clearly identify the four males involved in the theft. Brown and Adamo both think that dim lighting is part of the issue.

“After seeing the footage, everyone realizes that we need more lighting in all these areas,” Brown said.

“I think it’s interesting because one PSafe officer said he’s been saying they should install more lights behind Front Street since he started working, because he would be at one end and couldn’t see the other end, and now it’s taking an incident like this to change it,” Adamo said.

Yet, from PSafe’s perspective, lighting is not really the issue. LeBlanc stated “the failure to identify the four suspects is not because of the lighting, but rather that the suspects were covered from head to toe. The cameras have adequate lighting and they are internally equipped with infrared lighting.”

Perhaps the scariest element to this break-in, for Adamo and Brown at least, is that one of the thieves could be someone they know.

“It seemed like they went for our TV because they had four people and one of the kids in the video was really timid about it,” Adamo said. “We think it could have been someone from Hendrix or someone we know.”

Because the break-in only lasted for about 45 seconds, both the Conway PD and Hendrix PSafe arrived on the scene after the incident. LeBlanc noted that PSafe had to be notified through Conway Police dispatch and therefore arrived on the scene after Conway PD, a factor in the incident that hindered PSafe’s ability to get involved. LeBlanc acknowledged that Adamo and Brown did the correct thing in calling 911 first, but ideally should have contacted PSafe as well.

“When you have multiple people in an apartment, if one person calls the Conway Police Department and another person can call Public Safety that will get us there quicker as well,” LeBlanc said.

Adamo and Brown, however, acknowledged that contacting PSafe in an emergency is more complicated than it seems.

“If someone breaks into our apartment, we don’t know if they have a gun or a knife. PSafe doesn’t wear bullet-proof vests or carry firearms on them…a police officer would be better able to defend themselves and to defend me than a PSafe officer. Also you are taught at a young age that if anything goes wrong you should call 911,” Brown said.“It’s not like UCA where they have part of the police department as their public campus safety. Ours is privatized and they don’t carry firearms because we are a gun-free campus. If PSafe were to carry guns I probably would have called them immediately right after calling 911.”

*Note here: PSafe is not privatized – they are an internal public safety department of Hendrix College

Other issues have been brought up since the break-in, such as how apartment parties allow guests a front-row view of individual property. The only party that was held at that apartment, according to its residents, was last semester in the beginning of October. No recent party would have brought any strangers to the apartment. Adamo and Brown, being sports players, also have to keep in mind that their schedules are more accessible to the general public. It is much easier to look up an athlete’s away games or practices than it is to find a non-athlete’s schedule.

Both Adamo and Brown acknowledged how lucky they were to have been able to defend themselves. Both were in their bedrooms at the time of the break-in and never actually came down the stairs. Adamo, at one point, had to hold his door against one of the burglars. Both of them mentioned that this incident brought up concerns about their peers’ safety, especially people who live in an apartment alone or who do not feel that they can fully defend themselves.

“I grew up with brothers, I knew how to hold a door,” Adamo said, but acknowledged that some other students may not have the same skill.

The investigation continues and questions are still being asked.

“We really have no idea why,” Adamo said.

“Most people’s human nature is to not look for the worst case and think it’s going to happen…I never thought my place was going to get broken into,” Brown added.

In the meantime, Hendrix will need to take steps to make sure that facilities are as safe as they can be. The cameras have been a vital part of the investigation and yet some students still think they are not enough. Students may consider thinking about open parties and the risk they run when anyone can walk through their door. Questions may also arise about proper protocol in the event of an emergency, a facet of student life that seems either non-exist or at least not accessible.

*Note: this article was updated on March 2, 2017

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