Graduate student catches University of Michigan campus thief - and an award for his effort
The doors were found unlocked. The cash was missing. The candy: Gone.
But the steps one member took to putting an end to it - by using high-tech tools to catch a thieving doctoral student - earned a U-M graduate student one of several awards handed out on Wednesday by the Department of Public Safety.
Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com
Now that the situation is over, Lady can say he's grateful for the award - and also for the help he received in putting an end to the strange spate of thefts.
“I’m honored to receive the award, although, truth be told, I had the help of the organization of all the other people,” Lady said. “It’s as much their award as mine. I had the responsibility of calling the police, but it was definitely a group effort.”
Lady said he and other students in Eta Kappa Nu hbegan noticing in May 2010 that their office doors were unlocked when they arrived in the morning.
More than one door in the office was discovered unlocked on several occasions, and the students were certain they had not accidentally left multiple doors unlocked.
The electrical engineering students then noticed candy, snacks and cash missing from a snack kiosk used for fundraising.
A week after they would stock the kiosk, Lady said, all the snacks would disappear.
Certain that someone was stealing, Lady and several others who used the offices set up a webcam to record the commons area during the night.
On three different occasions in May and June, the camera recorded a person entering the office. Because the walls were cubicle partitions and didn’t reach all the way to the ceiling, the suspect was climbing over the offices’ walls, then letting himself out through the doors. But he wasn’t locking the doors after he left.
After capturing the suspect on camera, Lady said he called DPS and turned over the feeds.
He said DPS officers then began patrolling the building more than previously, hoping to bump into the suspect.
The incidents occurred during the summer when not many students were on campus. Lady said after another incident, DPS officers were able to use the building’s swipe card log to determine who entered the building that night. Only two people had entered, Lady said, and one was the suspect.
The suspect, who was a doctoral student in the chemistry department, admitted to the crimes, and in total stole around $20 in cash and multiple snacks.
“It seems kind of silly,” Lady said. “I don’t know if there was some other mitigating reason he did this."
U-M spokeswoman Diane Brown said Lady was “instrumental” in catching the suspect. The man was charged with three felony larceny counts but pleaded down to two misdemeanor charges, Brown said.
Lady said it was a strange situation, but he's relieved it was resolved.
"We caught him and he did pay us back for the stuff that he stole, so at least it all worked out.”
See the full program with all of the award-winners here.
Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for AnnArbor.com Reach the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2530.