Ruth Johnson spent her Sunday afternoon watching the father of one of her roommates hammer planks of wood to the windows of their off-campus house.
“We got blocks of wood on the windows now to prevent anyone from sliding it up, and [we] are putting combination locks on our wardrobes,” Johnson, an exchange student in the Class of 2022, said.
According to Johnson, she no longer feels safe in her own home after a burglar broke into her house this past weekend.
Johnson is not the only Boston College student discomforted following a break-in last weekend—BC students from at least four other off-campus houses reported that their houses had been broken into late Friday night or early Saturday morning, according to Boston Police Department (BPD) reports.
On Saturday morning, Walker Davey and his roommates realized something was wrong after noticing the unusual placement of his roommate’s fan, Davey said.
“He noticed ‘Oh, like weird that my fan is on the ground,’” Davey, CSOM ’23, said. “Then one of my roommates just goes like, ‘Hey, does anyone know where my computer is? I can’t seem to find it.’”
According to Davey, someone broke into their Gerald Rd. house on Friday night. Davey said he and his roommates noticed the next morning that two of their Apple laptops, which were stowed in backpacks, were missing. But Davey’s PC laptop—which sat in the open—was not stolen.
“Funny enough, I mean, my computer was out in the open,” Davey said. “It’s not a MacBook, so that’s why the person didn’t take it.”
Missing laptops were a common thread among the break-ins last weekend, with several students noting that other valuables had not been stolen.
Lindsey Dowd, MCAS ’23, returned to her off-campus house on Foster St. around 11:30 p.m. to discover that her and her four roommates’ laptops had been stolen. Yet the jewelry and keys that had sat on one of her roommate’s laptops were still there, she said.
“[The police officer] was just like, ‘Oh, were the laptops, on your bed, on your desk?’’ Dowd said. “That’s all she asked me and she told us this has been happening for the past four years and they only take Apple laptops … It’s all just so eerie to me.”
When Leanne Ortega, one of Dowd’s roommates and MCAS ’23, went to search for her laptop, she found her room torn apart.
“[Ortega] went to get her laptop and it was just gone,” Dowd said. “The whole room was completely disheveled. All her drawers were open. A belt was randomly on the ground.”
BPD reported that the responding officer found no signs of forced entry in Dowd and Ortega’s home, though one of the roommates told the officer that the back door might have been left unlocked.
“It was such an intrusive act,” Ortega said. “It’s really disturbing and unsettling that someone is like, watching and figuring out when you and your roommates are going to be out of the house. So it makes me feel a little bit weird that there are people just preying on college kids.”
Before leaving their house on Greycliff Rd. around 10:30 p.m. on Friday, Charlie O’Reilly, CSOM ’23, and Bryce Pill, MCAS ’23, said they locked their doors. They returned to find all four of the roommates’ MacBook laptops gone.
“I just thought, ‘This isn’t real,’” O’Reilly said. “We were not gone that long. I was a little scared too. They definitely had been watching the houses in the area and knew our habits.”
An officer arrived at O’Reilly and his roommates’ house after they called BPD.
“The outside screen to the living room window had been messed with,” Pill said. “We think they got in through there.”’
BPD told the roommates it would “keep an eye out for any suspicious characters,” though it has not contacted the students since early Saturday morning, according to Pill.
Other residents on Foster St. reported another break-in this past weekend, according to police reports. On Saturday morning, a BPD officer met with a resident whose laptop had been stolen. The officer told the resident’s father to keep “pinging” the laptop, and that BPD would notify their detectives, the report reads.
BPD Seargeant John Boyle said all five investigations are ongoing and that BPD hopes to arrest the individual responsible, though it is unclear if BPD will recover the laptops.
Boyle said residents should always have tracking software up to date on their laptops and keep record of their laptop’s serial number. He also advised residents to always lock their doors.
“Be aware of your surroundings,” he said. “Don’t leave items of value, such as laptops and cash, in plain view at a window. Make sure your windows [and] doors are locked when you leave.”
Five days after the burglaries, Off-Campus Student Living sent an email to students that included a BCPD Community Awareness Bulletin. BCPD advised students to keep their doors and windows locked, remove or secure air conditioners installed in windows, and report any suspicious activity.
The email also included the University’s recommendations on how to keep property protected. Suggestions included removing all valuable items from view and adding motion sensor lighting around the outside of the house.
Johnson said despite locking their doors, her and her roommates’ house was still broken into.
“My roommate locked hers but clearly that didn’t matter because her bedroom was the one they got in through.”
Johnson said beyond two Apple laptops, a $20 bill from her wallet and her roommate’s pair of diamond earrings were missing. Other valuable items—such as credit cards, car keys, an Apple watch, purses, and coats—were not taken, she said.
So far, only the residents of Davey’s house found their missing items—his roommates’ laptops were found in the bushes outside a house four doors down.
“One of my roommates got a DM from someone on Instagram,” Davey said. “Pretty much saying, ‘Hey, we think this is your laptop. Not sure how it got here, but you can come over and claim it.’”
Davey said the robbery changed how he views off-campus safety.
“Some general anxiety crept into me,” Davey said. “Just since … we thought that our house was a safe spot.”
The Greycliff residents said they were not completely shocked by this string of Friday-night break-ins, as it is not the first time BC students have faced off-campus burglaries.
“I had heard, the people who lived here last year said it happened to them,” O’Reilly said. “I definitely think we need more cameras.”
The BPD incident report for the Greycliff break-in confirmed a recent pattern of break-ins in the neighborhood.
“It should be noted that there have been many homes in the area that have also been broken into recently,” the report reads.
Dowd said she and her roommates plan to buy a Ring camera—a doorbell camera—and lock their doors to better protect themselves. Dowd no longer feels safe in her home, she said, and wishes she lived on campus.
“I was scared,” she said. “Someone was in our house and … it gives me chills just to think of that.”
O’Reilly and Pill also said they plan to buy a Ring camera, and they are considering buying a four-digit code lock for their door.
Overall, the Greycliff roommates said this has been a “brutal” ordeal, especially during the start of midterms.
“We run around the neighborhoods like we own the place, so it was definitely a rude awakening,” Pill said. “I would still say I feel safe. I guess I’ll just hide my laptop now.”
Featured Image by Beth Verghese / Heights Editor