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Still no leads on UWA break-ins

A rash of recent break-ins in the University of West Alabama dorms have put students on edge and busied the UWA Campus Police with an ongoing investigation.

“We hadn’t had any leads as of this afternoon, as far as I know,” Luther Gremmels, UWA Director of Student Life and Housing, said in an interview Tuesday. “The Campus Police are investigating, but they have not been provided with any leads that I’m aware of.”

The lack of leads is despite a $300 reward from UWA for any information that might lead to the criminal’s arrest. Gremmels said that the reward can have an impact even if it doesn’t produce an arrest, however.

“The reward is doing its job,” he said. “We were hoping it would help bring forward an eyewitness, but we believe it has served as a deterrent. There have not been any more break-ins since that time.”

“That time” began the weekend of March 25, the weekend that kicked off UWA’s Spring Break and emptied the dorms of their residents. Near the end of Spring Break, Gremmels said, a student returned to campus and asked the Spieth Hall hall director (just freshly back on campus herself) to let him back into the dorm to retrieve his wallet. He found that the room had been broken into, and when he reported this to the hall director, it was discovered that several more rooms had been invaded and burglarized.

If this incident could be shrugged off due to the deserted atmosphere of Spring Break, the second cannot. Students had returned and the campus was buzzing again on Tuesday, April 5, but that didn’t stop someone from walking in to Selden Hall sometime between 2 and 5 p.m. and again breaking into multiple rooms. One student lost an expensive laptop computer, Gremmels said.

“It’s a shock to us,” he added. “This many rooms broken into, 8 out of 208…for us, that’s significant, to have so many at one time. We usually don’t have more than two or three break-ins the entire year.

“It’s disconcerting to the students,” he said. “It’s certainly unfortunate, but it has put our students on notice that they need to be more careful.”

Gremmels acknowledged that the friendliness of the campus atmosphere can lead to students letting their guard down in regards to the threat of burglary.

“It can feel like a protective bubble,” he said, “and it is safer living on-campus than not. But there’s no community of 600 people that has no crime. There are going to be dishonest people around.”

Because of the campus’s uninhabited nature during Spring Break and open-door policy during daylight hours, Gremmels said there was no way to know what kind of person might have committed the robberies.

“It could be a student. It could be a non-student. It could be a student living off-campus,” he said. “We’re not sure, because the residence halls allow visitors. They have to check in, but it’s possible that on April 5 it was a student living in Selden, or that someone snuck in past the front desk, or that they went ahead and checked in and then broke into the rooms. We don’t know.”

Despite the lack of progress in identifying the culprit, Gremmels said he was glad no more break-ins had been committed, and that he was still hopeful that the criminal would be apprehended and the stolen property returned.

“We have made arrests in the past, and we have recovered stolen property and returned it to its owners,” he said. “If it’s a student, we will take disciplinary action and we will take it quickly. Usually, if it’s a student, they’re not a student for very long.”