Mids' dormitory thefts exceed $70,000 in 1994

April 22, 1995|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Sun Staff Writer

More than $70,000 worth of computer equipment, compact discs, money and jewelry were stolen last year from the Naval Academy dormitory where all 4,000 midshipmen live, according to a report obtained by The Sun.

The report, which details every incident handled by the academy's Department of Defense police force between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 1994, shows 232 reports of theft from Bancroft Hall, the midshipman dormitory, and other buildings at the academy. The overall loss was put at $129,000.

The loss from Bancroft was placed at $64,658.80 to midshipmen and $8,210 to the government.

The figures are similar to those recorded at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colo.

Lt. Col. Don McGrath, West Point spokesman, said there were 309 reported thefts last year, 220 of them of personal property and 86 of government property. The estimated loss was $95,000. He said the Army has no separate figures for cadet living areas.

He said only a few cadets have been expelled over the past several years for stealing. "You can count them on one hand," he said.

First Lt. Ron Watrus, an Air Force Academy spokesman, said cadets there reported 277 thefts of private property and 80 of government property. He did not have a dollar figure for the loss or a separate figure for cadet living areas.

He said one cadet was expelled for theft last year.

At the Naval Academy, police have only solved four cases, said spokeswoman Karen Myers.

"It's just a matter of the evidence not being there," Ms. Myers said. "In many of these cases, it is because of the openness of the environment. There are many people who wander around here. It could be Mids doing this or it could be other employees."

Midshipmen, who share rooms in Bancroft Hall with two or three others, are required to leave their doors open for inspection while they attend classes. Although they are provided with lockers, they often do not lock valuables inside, Ms. Myers said. Each midshipman has a computer in his room. Plebes are forbidden to have stereos.

While the 1.5 million visitors to the academy have access to almost all buildings in the Yard, they are barred from roaming Bancroft Hall, Ms. Myers said.

Although academy officials said they take theft seriously, they do not consider those in Bancroft Hall a major problem. "While we believe that such incidents at the academy are under control," Ms. Myers said, "it is an issue that we continue to examine."

Three midshipmen and several civilian employees were disciplined for stealing last year, she said.

"When a midshipman is found guilty of theft, it is dealt with harshly," she said.

Two midshipmen were accused last year of using stolen telephone calling cards and a third was found guilty of stealing money, she said. One of those accused of using stolen calling cards resigned before his case was resolved. The other was disciplined, Ms. Myers said. The midshipman convicted of stealing money was severely disciplined, she said.

She would not disclose the punishments, but said the midshipmen were not expelled.

Stealing is a violation of the honor concept, which holds that midshipmen do not "lie, cheat or steal." A midshipman suspected of stealing must appear before the Honor Committee, made up of other midshipmen. If convicted, a midshipman can be expelled or given other punishments that range from reduction of privileges to additional work duties.

Thefts of personal and government property also were reported from Halsey Field House, Dahlgren Hall, Lejeune Hall, Ricketts Hall and other buildings.

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