When sophomore Michael McAloon, Jr. walked out of his Central Campus apartment April 1 and saw his moped missing, he thought that it was a practical joke. After several days of asking friends if it was a prank, he quickly realized that this was nothing to laugh about.
Since March 7, four black TaoTao mopeds have been stolen, according to the Duke University Police Department. The thefts occurred amid concerns about campus security after reports of several robberies and a sexual assault on Central Campus earlier this academic year.
“If I walk out and stumble upon someone literally trying to walk away with my moped, what is that guy going to do to me?” McAloon said. “Is he just going to run away or is he going to harm me? The fact that this happened next to the stairs outside my room, that this happened so close on a Saturday night, that was pretty scary for me.”
McAloon reported the theft to DUPD soon after realizing his moped was missing. After several days without response though, he posted on the Fix My Campus Facebook page about how both his and his roommate's mopeds had been stolen on campus.
In the post, McAloon expressed concern that no security cameras were installed to catch the crimes on tape. He also suggested that the University hire “some security guards who don’t sit on their phones all night.”
"When a Duke police officer came, he spent the entire time blaming me for not having it chained up and didn't seem interested at all in what I had to say, but did manage to tell me that mopeds are a 'hot commodity' on campus and are being stolen all over the place," McAloon wrote.
Sara-Jane Raines, assistant chief of support services for DUPD, noted that a student’s car was also stolen from 1911 Yearby Avenue on Central Campus last Thursday. This is the same location where McAloon’s moped was previously stolen.
In addition, Janine Weaver-Douglas—associate dean for Central Campus for Housing, Dining and Residence Life—sent out an email on Friday about a “non-forcible entry” into a student’s apartment on Central Campus Thursday between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Police and security patrols are stationed across campus 24 hours a day and seven days a week, noted Chief of Police John Dailey in an email.
“Regarding cameras, the University has significantly increased the number of cameras across campus recently—over 800 have been installed,” Dailey wrote.
A program to increase security cameras on campus—led by Student Affairs, the Office of Information Technology and DUPD—was announced last August.
However, Larry Moneta, vice president of student affairs, wrote in an email that security cameras had only been installed on East Campus. Moneta noted that the cameras could only see entrances to residence halls, and that it was too early to determine whether the program is effective in reducing crime on East Campus.
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Sophomore Selin Yalcin said that her moped was stolen from West Campus near the Edens bike rack area. She noted that she and McAloon think there is a connection between the crimes due to their mopeds being the same model. TaoTao mopeds are made by a Chinese company, which may have been appealing to thieves, she explained.
“Our assumption is that they stole it to sell the parts because they’re not made in the United States,” Yalcin said.
Co-director for Fix My Campus Jacob Glasser, a sophomore, said that FMC had reached out to DUPD about the moped thefts and is waiting to see what options are available. Glasser noted that although FMC will continue to work with DUPD, the police department had yet to commit to increased security.
In the meantime, McAloon expressed his frustrations with security on campus.
“It’s obviously very upsetting because it’s something that I did spend a good deal of money on,” McAloon said. “I was pretty angry at the whole ordeal.”