In terms of campus thefts, most Kenyon students would likely say they’ve seen it all. In recent months, the College has witnessed a number of stolen bikes and catalytic converters, a burglarized NCA and all four tires and rims swiped from a single car in the South 2 parking lot. Unfortunately, yet another theft on Oct. 19 adds a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee to the list of stolen property, and though the car itself has since been recovered, many of its parts are’ gone, as well as many valuables from the vehicle’s interior. The only other vehicle theft to occur on campus in the past three years was that of a golf cart in 2021, which, according to Director of Campus Safety Michael Sweazey, was taken for the purpose of a joyride by a student.
The owner of the stolen Jeep, Claire Fomook ’23, woke up the morning of Oct. 20 with an eerie feeling that her guitar, which she had left under the backseat of her car for two days, was missing. In an effort to ease her anxieties, she resolved to walk to where she had parked her car in the Morgan Apartments lot, where she found that the situation was even more dire than she had feared. “Instead of the guitar not being there, the whole vehicle was not there,” she said. “It was pretty traumatic.”
Following the theft, Campus Safety officers helped Fomook look for her missing car around campus. “‘They kept asking me like, ‘Oh, did you leave your car somewhere?’” she said. “I think they thought I had gotten high or something, and left it somewhere.”
Once it was determined that the car was in fact gone, Fomook filed a report with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). The vehicle was recovered on Oct. 21 by the Newark Police Department after it was found on the side of a road in Licking County, about thirty miles from campus. The car was found in a state of disarray with its engine running and many of its parts missing, including its catalytic converter and some pieces of metal. In order to steal the catalytic converter, the thief also cut through the car’s exhaust pipes with a power tool, which could cause the car to burst into flames if it were to be driven. As a result, the vehicle had to be towed back to an auto-repair shop in Mount Vernon, where it will likely remain for about two weeks while it is repaired.
A number of valuable items, including the guitar, were also stolen from inside the vehicle and have yet to be recovered, such as a pair of ice skates, a Subway gift card and some cash. “They basically completely emptied out my car. They took my two-week-old grapes that were in there, so I guess they got a little hungry,” Fomook said. All that the thief left behind were some cleaning supplies, such as rags and a few bottles of chemical solution, which they likely used to wipe away their fingerprints.
According to Sweazey, there was no broken glass or other sign of forced entry, which he explained may indicate that the thief broke into the vehicle using a “slim jim” tool, a thin strip of metal with a hooked end that can be slipped between a car’s window and its rubber seal in order to unlock its door.
With the newfound knowledge that thieves are lurking so closely to student vehicles and residences, Fomook said that implementing additional security measures to areas where students park and live would be beneficial. “Someone can be walking back home from studying at the wrong time, during one of these incidents, and the thieves could react some other way,” she said. “It would have been helpful to have some sort of surveillance.”
Sweazey noted that crime rates have risen since the Village of Gambier stopped employing a Deputy Sheriff to patrol the village at night, but also emphasized that college campuses tend to attract thieves. “College campuses are target-rich environments because of the number of bicycles, etc and an overall feeling of security that leads people to not lock their valuables or secure their residences,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian.
In light of this most recent theft, there are not yet any additional plans to implement any new security measures, or to reinstate any old ones. Sweazey continues to assure students that Campus Safety officers patrol the campus, and he encourages the Kenyon community to utilize the RAVE Guardian App to report any suspicious activity.