Worried on the West Coast

Students burglarized while studying in LA

By on February 18, 2016

Editor’s note: This article was updated on  Feb. 19 at 5:05 p.m. to include information from a police report, Oakwoods Apartments and an additional interview from Victoria Saha. It was also edited and restructured for clarity. The article was again updated on Feb. 20 at 8:15 p.m. to include that Saha was not sure if she had locked the door. See the original article below. 

Victoria Saha and Melanie Nyarko’s Oakwoods apartment was burglarized earlier this month while they continue to spend the semester studying in Los Angeles.

When Saha woke up around 8 a.m. on Feb. 10, she noticed her laptop and computer case were missing from the coffee table where she left them the night before, according to a police report. She then realized her iPhone and laptop chargers, as well as $60 from her wallet, were gone.

Nyarko had woken up at 6:30 a.m. that day and saw the apartment’s balcony door was open, according to the police report. Nyarko told police she thought Saha had left the door open, and Nyarko got up to close it. Saha said she did not leave the door open, but was not sure if she locked the door. 

Police say they did not see that the balcony door or screen was damaged, and that whoever came into the apartment appeared to enter through the rear balcony door.

Individual residents are responsible for locking their own doors, according to Oakwoods Director of Global Communications Pam Krebs. Oakwoods has onsite security, conducts regular patrols and has residents use their passes to be able to enter the building. While the entrances to the students’ apartment building may have security cameras, Krebs said, the balcony area does not to preserve residents’ privacy.  

Saha said the hallways and balconies should still have security cameras, despite this.

Saha called security and left a voicemail after she noticed her belongings were gone, but said, even after a few other phone calls, she did not hear back from them until she went down to the desk later that afternoon. A resident assistant from Quinnipiac helped Saha call the police and filed a report with Residential Life. Director of the QU in L.A. Program Miguel Valenti also came to Oakwoods once he heard about the burglary from Saha.

A few days after the program’s orientation, Saha said she and Nyarko were assured that Oakwoods was a safe place and no student had ever been robbed or burglarized. Yet, Saha said she first noticed something suspicious when she got back to her apartment one day at the beginning of the semester.

“I came back to find my door wide open after I specifically remembered closing it shut — I thought it was my roommate but no one was home,” Saha said.

Saha said nothing was missing but she called security because she was scared. She said security told her they did not know what happened and there were no cameras in the area. About two weeks later, Saha woke up shocked to discover that someone had stolen her MacBook, computer case, chargers and money while she was sleeping.

“My life was in that MacBook and now I’m scared to even walk around the complex,” Saha said.

Saha did not have a lock on her computer because she said she did not think she would need it. She has tried to use the laptop’s “find my computer” software, but she said the software is not working because the computer is turned off or dead. She did not have renter’s insurance for her laptop, so she has since need to buy a new one.   

Victoria’s twin sister, Quinnipiac junior Olivia Saha, said she could not believe her sister and roommate were placed in what she called an unsafe area.

“It is obviously very terrifying thinking about the fact that Victoria and Mel [Nyarko] were in such close proximity with an intruder,” Olivia said.

Olivia said the most upsetting fact about this ordeal is the way the university is choosing to handle it.

“Quinnipiac assured the safety and well-being of their students in Los Angeles, however, failed to properly assess their security measures,” Olivia said.

John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, said students have to attend an orientation session that goes over safety precautions.

“Students who take part in the QU in LA program are required to attend a detailed orientation, which includes reminders about common safety precautions, including closing and locking doors, not displaying personal property publicly and being aware of your surroundings,” Morgan said.

Victoria said Melissa Karipidis, associate director of Residential Life at Quinnipiac, told her all Quinnipiac students who are studying in Los Angeles must sign a contract that says the program is not responsible for theft or stolen items.

Victoria said when Kardipis responded that way, she was so appalled and said she wondered why Karipidis didn’t take the situation seriously.

“When I called Melissa [Karipidis] and asked how Quinnipiac would have responded if Mel and I were to have been physically harmed, she completely avoided the question,” Victoria said.

Victoria said Quinnipiac program officials promised to move the girls to an apartment on a different floor within three days of the incident. Victoria could have moved to a single room that day, but she said her father did not want her living by herself. Four days later, they re-postponed the move for another week, Victoria said.

“If that doesn’t scream ‘ridiculous,’ I don’t know what does,” Victoria said.

But she said on Friday, Feb. 19 that the women will be moving to a double room on a different floor in Oakwoods that day.

When Victoria told the university what happened, a staff member from Residential Life said, “I don’t know what to tell you.”

But Victoria said she wondered whether or not Residential Life would have the same reaction should a similar situation happen in Hamden.

“If this incident were ever to happen while being on either Mount Carmel or York Hill, would they have the same response?” Victoria said.

Victoria also said she wonders if it would have taken something more serious to occur in order Residential Life to wake up and take action.

Olivia said she wonders how proper safety measures are followed across the world, but Quinnipiac fails to take such actions. She said the theft would have never happened on Quinnipiac’s campus housing, “due to the fact that Quinnipiac has made sure that the living spaces are safe.”

“If this had happened on New Road which is off campus but still Quinnipiac-provided housing, they’d be following up and making their every effort to ensure that those students feel safe moving forward,” Olivia said.

Burglaries have happened on Quinnipiac’s campus before. For example, Public Safety warned students in an email after three burglaries and one attempted burglary occurred in Village in October 2013. There were 10 burglaries on campus in 2012 and nine in 2013, according to Clery crime statistics.

Victoria has a balcony view of an elevated parking lot, which is not easily accessible by the public.

“Not a lot of people would know the ins and outs of this property unless someone was thorough about the apartments here,” she said.

Victoria said her apartment is considered to be a luxurious apartment, but it lacks basic security protocols.

“It’s clear that because of their lack of security, this was able to happen,” Victoria said.

But Olivia said, despite of the lack of security, Oakwoods makes sure safety protocols are taken.

“Their office is keenly aware of the importance of students’ safety [away from the Quinnipiac campus] and therefore is diligent in making sure that students’ housing is acceptable and safe, along with executing proper safety protocols in the event of emergencies,” Olivia said.

Victoria said after the incident, she didn’t receive any apologies from the Oakwoods staff and manager.

“I am also very upset because no one from Oakwoods’ higher-up managers even came to either of us to personally apologize,” she said.

For the future, Victoria believes Quinnipiac should make sure students’ apartments will have security cameras everywhere.

Despite the theft, Victoria said Quinnipiac’s program in Los Angeles is great and that she has been doing amazing there.

“It’s a good program– The only issue I’m having is QU not doing anything about reimbursing me and Oakwoods apartment and their crappy security,” Victoria said.

Victoria said the program is not to blame and neither the director.

“I have so many amazing opportunities being offered to me here through my internship and I want other students to experience this great city,” she said.

Nyarko declined a request to comment.

ORIGINAL STORY

Victoria Saha and Melanie Nyarko’s Oakwoods apartment was recently broken into, while they continue to spend the semester studying in Los Angeles.

A few days after the program’s orientation, Saha and Nyarko were assured that Oakwoods was a safe place and no student was ever robbed.

Saha said she first noticed something suspicious when she got back to her apartment one day at the beginning of the semester.

“I came back to find my door wide open after I specifically remembered closing it shut— I thought it was my roommate but no one was home,” Saha said.

Saha said nothing was missing but she called security because she was scared. She said security told her there were no cameras.

About two weeks later, Saha and Nyarko woke up shocked to discover that someone broke into their apartment while they were sleeping.

Saha and Nyarko woke up to find all their money and Saha’s MacBook and multiple chargers stolen.

“My life was in that MacBook and now I’m scared to even walk around the complex,” Saha said.

Victoria’s twin sister, Olivia Saha, who is a junior at Quinnipiac, could not believe her sister and roommate were placed in such an unsafe area.

“It is obviously very terrifying thinking about the fact that Victoria and Mel were in such close proximity with an intruder,” Olivia said.

She said that the most upsetting fact about this ordeal is the way the university is choosing to handle it.

“Quinnipiac assured the safety and well-being of their students in Los Angeles, however failed to properly assess their security measures,” Olivia said.

John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, said students have to attend an orientation session that goes over safety precautions.

“Students who take part in the QU in LA program are required to attend a detailed orientation, which includes reminders about common safety precautions, including closing and locking doors, not displaying personal property publicly and being aware of your surroundings,” Morgan said.

Saha said Melissa Karipidis, associate director of Residential Life at Quinnipiac, told her all Quinnipiac students who are studying abroad in Los Angeles must sign a contract that says the program is not responsible for theft or stolen items.

Saha said when Karipidis responded that way, she was so appalled and wondered why Karipidis didn’t take the situation seriously.

“When I called Melissa Karipidis and asked how Quinnipiac would have responded if Mel and I were to have been physically harmed, she completely avoided the question,” Saha said.

Saha has a balcony view of an elevated parking lot, which is not easily accessible by the public.

“Not a lot of people would know the ins and outs of this property unless someone was thorough about the apartments here,” she said.

Saha said her apartment is considered to be a luxurious apartment, but it lacks basic security protocols.

Quinnipiac program officials promised to move the girls to an apartment on a different floor within three days of the incident. Four days later, they re-postponed the move for another week, according to Saha.

“If that doesn’t scream “ridiculous”, I don’t know what does,” Saha said.

Oakwoods is not responsible for stolen items, according to Saha. She said Oakwoods did not have enough security.

“It’s clear that because of their lack of security, this was able to happen,” Saha said.

Despite the lack of security, Oakwoods makes sure safety protocols are taken, according to Olivia.

“Their office is keenly aware of the importance of students’ safety abroad and therefore is diligent in making sure that students’ housing is acceptable and safe, along with executing proper safety protocols in the event of emergencies,” Olivia said.

Saha said after the break-in, she didn’t receive any apologies from the L.A. staff and manager.

“I am also very upset because no one from Oakwoods higher up managers even came to either of us to personally apologize,” she said.

Oakwoods holds itself to luxurious apartments but doesn’t even have basic precautions to take, according to Saha.

“It was clear that because of Oakwoods negligence something like this was able to occur,” Saha said.

When Saha told the school what happened, a staff member from Residential Life said, “I don’t know what to tell you.”

But Saha wondered whether or not Residential Life would have the same reaction should a similar situation happen on campus in Hamden.

“If this incident were ever to happen while being on either Mount Carmel or York Hill, would they have the same response?” Saha said.

She also wonders if it would have took something more serious to occur in order Residential Life to wake up and take action.

Olivia wonders how proper safety measures are followed across the world, but Quinnipiac fails to take such actions. She said the theft would have never happened on Quinnipiac’s campus housing, “due to the fact that Quinnipiac has made sure that the living spaces are safe.”

“If this had happened on New Road which is off campus but still Quinnipiac provided housing, they’d be following up and making their every effort to ensure that those students feel safe moving forward,” Olivia said.

For the future, Saha believes Quinnipiac should make sure students’ apartments will have security cameras everywhere.

Despite the theft, Saha said Quinnipiac’s program in Los Angeles is great and that she has been doing amazing there.

Saha said the program is not to blame and neither the director.

“I have so many amazing opportunities being offered to me here through my internship and I want other students to experience this great city,” she said.

CORRECTION: The online version of this article is different from the print version that appeared in the paper this week. The online version has been corrected to say the students were burglarized rather than robbed. Robbed insinuates that there was a threat involved which was not the case in this situation.

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About Katherine Hansford Arce