UWM leaders confident of student safety after dorm thefts

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by Lane Kimble

MILWAUKEE -- A rash of missing electronics and a handgun found in a dorm room provided startling news for UW-Milwaukee students to deal with.  But with the suspects in custody and no one hurt, the university sees this as a real-world life lesson.

"They felt safe until they realized someone had violated that safety," Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Dr. Michael Laliberte said.

Police arrested two 19-year-old UWM students and a 17-year-old in Sandburg Residence Hall early Sunday morning.

"It turns out these individuals were going into unlocked rooms and taking possessions that were belonging to other students," Laliberte said.

The thieves worked through 15 to 20 dorm rooms.  But the most startling discovery was a gun found  by a roommate in a suspect's room.

"This is a very rare occurrence," Laliberte said.  "I believe this is the first, perhaps the second time in a number of years that we've seen or found weapons in our residence halls."

Concealed carry laws allow guns on campus, but not inside any buildings.  Campus police found the suspects after a floor to floor search of the dorm's north tower and had them arrested.  Even so, the university doesn't plan to boost patrols.

"This was not an outsider coming in, so we don't feel this was any breach of our security system," Laliberte said.

"I'm pretty diligent about locking up all of my stuff," freshman Steven Braun, who lives in Sandburg Hall, said.  "It's a little shocking to know someone was stealing from the rooms and had guns in the rooms."

Braun says the university warns students about locking their rooms all the time, even leaving reminder notes on doors.  He expects his fellow classmates will finally listen to that advice.

"From the amount of people that had things stolen from the rooms, I don't think as many people were doing it, but I think now with what just happened, I think a lot more people are going to start locking up their stuff," Braun said.

The three suspects were still in custody at the Milwaukee County Jail Monday, but they have not yet been charged.  The university says the suspects will also face a disciplinary hearing with the dean of students that could lead to expulsion.

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