A series of break-ins and thefts at the Orange Coast College Recycling Center since July has prompted Campus Safety and the Maintenance and Operations department to increase security at the facility, according to Chief of Campus Safety Jim Rudy.
The first reported incident occurred July 9 with others on July 31, Sept. 21, Sept. 26, Oct. 2, Oct. 26 and Nov. 4, Rudy said. The break-ins have usually taken place between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., but the most recent theft was reported a little after midnight, he said.
Rudy said the suspects are primarily stealing recycled electronics, none of which are worth more than $500 in most cases.
“The only thing I can think of is maybe they’re getting some money for them to have the laptops refurbished,” Rudy said.
In surveillance footage, Rudy said the suspects can be seen climbing over the fence where the Recycling Center and the softball field meet, but Campus Safety hasn’t been able to identify anyone. He said there are usually no more than two suspects entering the area at one time.
“We do have a camera system and we do see folks entering the site,” he said. “But a lot of times they’re wearing jackets or hoodies and it’s very difficult to identify them.”
On video, Rudy said the individuals can be seen tearing open Saran-wrapped recyclables to gain access to laptops and other electronics.
In October, a Campus Safety officer was stationed inside the Recycling Center between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. and saw “a couple of suspects” enter the premises while watching the surveillance camera from within the building. Rudy said that officer notified the Costa Mesa Police Department but the suspects fled campus once officers arrived.
Now, Campus Safety has assigned “midnight officers” to patrol the area routinely.
“Part of our briefing item (for midnight officers) is around 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. to have high visibility patrol out there, every night,” Rudy said. “And also to do foot patrols.”
During one of these patrols, a Campus Safety officer did detain a woman by the bathrooms in the Adams Avenue Parking Lot, but Rudy said there “wasn’t enough evidence to say she was in there (Recycling Center).”
An officer had notified the Costa Mesa Police Department and the other Campus Safety officers who were on campus at that time and questioned the woman, who was on foot, then released her.
Two other thefts on campus have also been reported – one at the Planetarium construction site Aug. 30 and another at the student housing construction site Nov. 1, according to Rudy. He said suspects pried open the lid on a metal tool box at the Planetarium site and stole the tools inside. On Nov. 1, a dirt compactor from the student center construction was also reported stolen
However, Rudy said he doesn’t believe the theft from the construction sites and the Recycling Center are related.
“I’m hoping that soon, working with our maintenance and operations team, we’ll be able to work on hardening that area with some fencing that’s taller and more of a security style fencing to at least deter or make it more difficult for these folks to enter that recycling area,” Rudy said.
He also said they are working on purchasing additional metal storage bins to store recyclables inside and lock.
“Right now being the middle of the semester, it’s difficult for our maintenance and operations team to find time when they’re handling other requests on campus,” Rudy said. “So we’re hoping that during the winter break we’ll be able to get that done.”