Initially published in The Herring, the independent student newspaper of Amsterdam University College
– Three young men aged sixteen, and one aged fifteen, were arrested by Amsterdam police on Sunday, January 17th at 6:55 PM after a student reported suspicious individuals in the building. The arrest took place at the Amsterdam University College dorms in Science Park. The intruders are being charged with an attempted break-in and were released on Monday, January 18th. Documentation related to the incident has been sent to the prosecutor’s office.
At around 6:30 PM the local police department received a call from Ilen Madhavji, the student who noticed suspicious-looking teenagers wandering around the dorms’ floors. “I saw four guys trying to open door handles in my hallway and called the police,” said Madhavji. The police arrived within several minutes and began to search the building. “One officer even commandeered my bike to chase these guys down,” he added. He warned other students about the suspicious activity at the dorms on the university’s Facebook group.
Meanwhile, another AUC student, Konstantin Kirilov, alarmed by Madhavji’s post, left his room with a softball bat to check whether the suspects had been caught. He spotted the first two intruders walking towards the grass area behind the first building: “I shouted something random at them, but they did not react, so as I was about to start walking towards them, two police officers came through the first courtyard,” said Kirilov.
After the officers ran past Kirilov in pursuit of the first two suspects, the other two bumped into him. He immediately knew they were not AUC students and he asked them what they were doing in the courtyard. When he did not get a clear answer, Kirilov told them he was the resident assistant and asked them to come with him. “They wanted to slip away, but were still hesitant,” said Kirilov, “could have believed my story or saw the softball bat in my hands.”
As they turned around the corner to the basketball court the police car was already waiting for them. The first two intruders had already been caught by the policemen and identified by another student, Yaron Zonneveld, who saw them trying to get into the building. He later identified all four suspects at the police station. All four of the detained are charged with attempted break-in.
Last week at least four incidents of attempted and actual break-ins were reported by students. “On Saturday morning, January 16th, someone broke into my room while I was sleeping and after he ran off I called the police,” said Chiara Tulp. “I woke up before he could go through my stuff, but he took my purse which was on the table,” she added.
Nick Handfield-Jones and Tanushree Kaushal were less lucky. On Tuesday, January 12th, robbers took two computers, two chargers, a pair of headphones and a backpack from their room. “We hope that after arresting the four burglars recently, they will be able to follow some new leads,” said Handfield-Jones.
In the past few weeks, many students also reported hearing someone trying to forcefully open their doors. Amsterdam police refused to disclose the precise number of reports due to privacy issues.
The continuous instances of break-ins add fuel to the ongoing discussion on whether the student housing buildings are properly secured. Last year DUWO accepted students’ request to change the system of magnet keys from individual to universal, meaning that one key can open all string corridors and building entrances, which is often regarded as a possible explanation to how burglars get into the dorms. String door locks often break, as well, which leaves burglars with only one obstacle: the doors to students’ rooms, which are often left unlocked. Most of the break-ins happen when all of these factors coincide.
“There is a bigger issue at play here, which is that the security measures in this building are comically bad,” said Handfield-Jones. “For instance, anybody can get into the building by walking behind it and entering through the courtyard door,” he added.
A glass panel next to the entrance of the first building, where most of the break-ins happened, has been entirely broken for several months. However, AUC Resident Assistants claim that DUWO has already ordered a replacement for it.
Students also propose at least minimal surveillance in the dorms: “I am not saying that there should be full surveillance in the dorms, but cameras at the entrances might make things a lot easier and allow the police to get information much quicker,” said Tulp.
DUWO has not yet made any statements regarding the recent events, but AUC Resident Assistants are sending them a list of all broken string doors and other requests on Wednesday, January 19th.
Following the recent events, the AUC Student Council addressed students, stressing that their doors should remain locked at all times and that they should call 112 if they see a suspicious stranger wandering around the building.