Theft at Kean University alarms the campus community
Photo of suspect at Military Park Train Station in Newark and 7-Eleven in Elizabeth, N.J.
By Sade Cox
Campus police are investigating two reported thefts in Hennings Hall and the Nancy Thompson Library that investigators believe are connected and which led to one University professor’s stolen credit card being used to purchase expensive monthly commuter train tickets.
The Department of Public Safety and Police Investigations Bureau identified a suspect involved in the Jan. 29 incidents and believes the thefts are connected with similar incidents on and off the campus.
There were two victims involved in the thefts, a female student and a professor. The victims’ identities are confidential.
The female student was targeted in the library when the suspect attempted to grab her backpack, claiming he thought it was his cousin’s bag. The suspect was unable to steal anything in this incident.
“We were able to pull surveillance video of the suspect from the campus library security camera of the suspect going through the student’s bag,” said Detective Michael Gorman, Bureau Supervisor at Kean Police’s Investigations Bureau. “However, we couldn’t get a good look at his face to make an identification.”
The second target was a professor who left her purse unattended in her office in Hennings Hall where her wallet and credit cards were stolen.
“She found out her wallet was stolen when her bank called and told her that her credit cards had been used at random places,” said Gorman.
As shown in the photographs from surveillance videos, the suspect tends to carry a brown satchel and wears a hat, along with bright blue Converse style sneakers. He is an African American male, and believed to be in his fifties or sixties.
The investigation of the professor’s stolen bank card traced the suspect using the card at a New Jersey Transit Military Park train station and a Popeye’s restaurant in Newark and a 7-Eleven in Elizabeth.
Enlisting the assistance of the New Jersey Transit Police Department, Kean Police received a tip that the suspect uses the stolen credit cards at ticket machines to purchase a monthly train pass at an estimated cost of $72. He then sells these passes to passengers waiting on the track for a profit of approximately $50 cash.
“A person may believe they are getting a good deal by purchasing passes from panhandlers for a cheaper price,” said Gorman. “Unfortunately, the ticket machine doesn’t require any pin to use a credit card.”
The suspect will keep swapping the card until it is reported stolen and declined. The suspect will then throw it away and keep using other cards.
According to Gorman, police installed a pin hole, or a disguised camera, in the ticket machine at the train station. By doing this, the Kean Police department was able to track the credit card, the amount of money spent, time and location of the suspect.
The camera caught a clear photo of the suspect, but police are still having trouble identifying the perpetrator. The image of the suspect from the pinhole camera was sent to every police department in the state of New Jersey.
The Kean Police department reached out to students and faculty on Feb. 11 asking for students to be on the lookout for the offender.
The Kean S.A.F.E. initiative and the town of Union has been assisting the Kean police department to report any suspicious activities. Since the incident there have not been any more reports of theft.
Members of the University community who either lose, or have personal items stolen, should report the incident to campus police, authorities said.
“The crime rates on campus are lower than ever before because more people are connected with CampusAlerts to report any suspicious activity on campus, according to Gorman.
The suspect was last seen by train passengers in Rahway.
Rahway police are assisting in investigation. If anyone has any information, contact the Public Safety Department at 908-737-4800.
“There are 15,000 eyes in the Kean community to alert the police if they see him again,” said Gorman.