Los Medanos College Police Services is still actively investigating thefts that occurred on campus a few weeks ago. They are determining whether or not the incidents were connected and tied to a person of interest identified through video surveillance.
According to Lieutenant Chad Wehrmiester, the footage from Sept. 21 has been analyzed and shows a male suspect that has been identified as an LMC student in the votech area perpetrating the crime.
He explained that because they haven’t made an official arrest yet and are still under investigation, the police department is unable to release the name of the suspect in question.
But Wehrmiester said the video doesn’t tell the whole story.
“Just because I have a video of somebody doesn’t mean I have the video of that person stealing something,” he said. “But I might have a video of someone being in a room that they shouldn’t be in.”
Police Services would “have to figure out who are they, why they were there, what’s their story,” said Wehrmiester.
When identifying a suspect in video footage, he said they start with physical characteristics and then physical proximity to the items stolen. Then they look at an individual’s behavior, such as the way someone walks, their body language and what they are doing.
“We’re still investigating to see if the person we identified is connected with all the thefts that happened before we make an arrest,” said Wehrmiester. “It’s also a code of conduct situation –– not only are our students held to the same legal requirements that everyone else in our community is, but students are also held to a college code of requirement.”
He clarified that discipline under the college’s polices could include anything up to getting kicked out of the school, not being allowed to enroll or going to a hearing.
“It’s a team,” he said, adding that Police Services works very closely with Dean of Student Success Dave Belman. “The majority of our cases with students all get funneled through the college because of the code of conduct.”
According to Belman, theft is classified as misconduct and a student found violating policy will receive disciplinary action.
“After students get referred to me, I might speak with the students, witnesses and even look at evidence in it’s own investigation,” said Belman.
But he explained that while he’s able to discuss the process, the reason they are unable to release the suspect’s information as of now is because “we’re subject to the college with FERPA laws.”
Both investigations –– through Police Services and through Belman –– happened simultaneously. Wehrmiester said team concept occurs between both parties to piece together information they have leading to the prosecution of the suspect.
“It’s a pretty good system that’s pretty exclusive to college communities because you don’t necessarily get that in the city,” said Wehrmiester. “This person of interest has been removed from the school and we are confident that we will have a successful criminal prosecution.”
When it comes to getting the word out to the campus about safety precautions, Wehrmiester said Police Services is trying to reach out on person-to-person basis because “we know not everyone reads their college email.”
He added, “We’re getting the word out to all of the instructors through our department chairs to remind students of those precautions.”
One of the consistencies Wehrmiester said police services noted about each theft incident was all of them being situations where students or staff members left their belongings unattended.
“The message we’re trying to get across to people is to never leave anything of value unattended,” he said. “Just because you’re in a class full of people don’t think it’s safe to leave your items behind unless you explicitly ask someone.”
Police Services has gone as far as identifying areas that have usually been left open during instruction but not necessarily always having people in the area.
He said, “In the last month we have been changing a lot of the ways we do things in our labs and offices by locking up those areas that were usually left open for students to come in and out of.”
Some LMC instructional departments have even made special precautions since the theft incidents.
“We completely lock up the tool room and readjusted the cameras so we can get better views of peoples faces,” said Votech Evening Tool Room Supervisor Erwin Cadena. He explained that they use to keep the door in the tool room that leads to the classroom propped open with the deadbolt but now the only way to get in there is if someone has a key.
Wehrmiester said police services have gone about securing classes differently around campus. Much of their efforts go into identifying the times certain departments open and close and for people in those departments to notify police services if they leave earlier than usual.
“The college campus is a real open environment and was designed that way on purpose,” said Wehrmiester. “We want the campus to be open and inviting to visitors, public and more importantly, to students.”