UNCW investigating 36 thefts since Florence

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Since Oct. 1, items have been reporting missing from dorms, buildings.

WILMINGTON — As students return to the University of North Carolina Wilmington, dozens are reporting items missing from their dorm rooms.

UNCW Police Chief David Donaldson said since Oct. 1, 36 thefts have been reported on campus, including 33 involving students’ belongings, one involving a employee’s property and two of university property. Donaldson said the most common items reported missing are jewelry and cash, and the university property was two iPads.

As recovery efforts began on campus after Hurricane Florence, university officials entered residence halls to collect water-logged and mold-damaged items. The university paid to have those items professionally cleaned.

Donaldson said police have been screening theft reports and believe none so far involve items removed for cleaning.

“We assume that every case that comes to us is legitimate, so I don’t have any reason to think that anything’s being misrepresented,” he said. “We’re asking students to speak with their residential coordinator if they find something missing from their room to make certain that that isn’t an item that was cleaned and warehoused by Housing in the recovery.”

Items reported stolen range from food to family heirlooms left in dorms, Donaldson said. So far, police have investigated theft reports at Graham Hall, Seahawk Landing, Seahawk Village, DePaulo Hall, Hewlett Hall, Galloway Hall, Cornerstone Apartments, Morton Hall and McNeill Hall.

Donaldson said police were stationed at campus entrances 24 hours a day during the 25 days UNCW was closed to the public, and more officers patrolled campus. But to allow crews and contractors to start repairs, campus buildings had to be unlocked.

Police are reviewing campus security footage, but Donaldson said it appears the thefts took place during the period buildings were unlocked.

“This has to be just terribly upsetting for our students,” Donaldson said. “They’ve been disrupted and displaced by the hurricane itself and all the inconveniences of this, and then they come home to their campus home .. and their space has been violated. It’s just like a kick when you’re already down, and I’m just so, so sorry about that.”

Reporter Cammie Bellamy can be reached at Cammie.Bellamy@StarNewsOnline.com.