Several Kilgo Quad residents have reported missing items from the Kilgo House P laundry room over the course of the fall semester.
The high number of thefts, varying from stolen laundry supplies to expensive clothing items, has caused Housing and Residence Life to consider strict measures to discourage student misconduct. While some students are happy that precautions are being taken, others feel that they can no longer trust their peers and have lost hope that they will be reunited with their stolen items.
Sophomore Natalie Hartman said that she lost a Champion sweatshirt, priced around $60, after doing laundry on a weekday.
“I think I only left my clothes in the dryer for like an hour. And I walked into the laundry room and I saw that one of my socks was on the floor and it was dry. I was like ‘I don’t think I would’ve forgotten to put it in the laundry,’” Hartman said.
After going through her load, Hartman was disappointed to see that her favorite sweatshirt was missing.
“I remembered what I put in and I immediately realized it wasn’t there. I was so upset,” she recalled.
Although she was disheartened, Hartman was not surprised because her roommate had also been the victim of laundry theft a few days before Hartman experienced it herself. Her roommate had two shirts and some shorts stolen, Hartman said.
Hartman said she emailed her resident adviser to make him aware of the theft but didn’t end up filing a report with Duke University Police Department because “it’s just a sweatshirt.”
Junior Quan Nguyen had a similar story to Hartman over the weekend.
“I finished doing my laundry and then left my detergent there. I guess I forgot about it for a couple of hours and went to go get it and it was gone,” he said.
Both Hartman and Nguyen no longer feel comfortable doing laundry in the future and are frustrated by their peers’ actions.
“It’s kind of annoying when you can’t trust your peers to not steal your things,” Nguyen said.
“After my roommate got her stuff stolen, we were like ‘should we start sending our laundry out?’ But it’s really expensive,” Hartman said. “Maybe my roommate will take some of her stuff to her aunt’s house who lives nearby instead.”
Sophomore Kylie Greenwald, who has not personally experienced any thefts, is also upset about the situation.
“I think it’s unfortunate,” she said. “I don’t know why someone would do it honestly. I keep on telling people ‘Where are you going to wear this stuff? People will see that it’s your stuff and you’re wearing it.’”
Students rallying for installation of cameras
Many Kilgo residents have expressed anger in a dorm-wide GroupMe chat. The group chat, titled “Kilgo 2021-2022,” consists of 233 members out of the 362 total Kilgo residents.
A GroupMe poll with the question “Cameras in the laundry room?” was sent out on Nov. 3 and received 92 total votes. Eighty-four residents voted in favor of the installation of cameras in the laundry room, while eight residents voted against it.
An RA, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said that the poll is not an accurate reflection of Kilgo residents because “that group chat doesn’t have everyone,” and a majority opinion would need to be assessed in a different way.
“The HRL staff really wants to put in cameras but they have to go through a lot of permissions, so unless enough of the residents are okay with it then they can go forth with it,” she said. When asked how many residents constitute a majority, the RA was unsure.
Several students felt that cameras would be a positive addition and would prevent future thefts.
All residence halls currently have cameras at entrances and exits to buildings.
“I am definitely for it. I don’t see any good argument against it because I feel like it’s not like a bathroom, it’s not an invasion of privacy to have cameras in the laundry room. It seems like a good step,” Hartman said.
“Cameras would be a good solution for security,” the RA said. “I would hope nothing is happening in the laundry room that people would need privacy for.”
Nguyen and Greenwald agreed but were skeptical about how consequences could be enforced for the thief.
“In terms of catching the person, cameras probably wouldn’t help,” Nguyen said.
“I feel like cameras would solve the problem but who would monitor that? I don’t think that anyone would look at the footage,” Greenwald added.
Possibility of sealing off the laundry room
As an alternative to cameras, HRL is also considering sealing off the laundry room altogether. Both cameras and shutting down the laundry room have been serious topics of consideration in Kilgo RA meetings.
In that situation, “You’ll have to go to a different dorm to do laundry,” the RA said.
When asked if cameras were a more realistic option, the RA responded, “I would hope so … depends on if it gets approved.”
DUPD’s involvement in laundry room misconduct
DUPD Community Services Officer Aaron Pruka said that “there’s been pushback from students over the years” about adding more cameras in the dorms, so installing cameras in the laundry room could be a substantial obstacle.
Pruka also said that he regularly reviews a report summary of all the calls they receive and had not “heard any reports coming out of Kilgo,” as of Nov. 11.
If students notify RAs about theft, the RAs are instructed to fill out incident reports which go through HRL, but are not directed to DUPD.
When asked about what steps students should take, the RA said, “I think that at this point if people have things stolen, they should go to DUPD because it is theft. They can report it and it would be a much more involved investigation through DUPD rather than through the HRL staff.”
Pruka added that students should not wait to notify DUPD of thefts. “If you notice it, call in right away … a lot of those calls that we get [related to theft] are actually belated to several hours to days to weeks,” he said. Delayed reporting can make it more difficult for police to complete a thorough investigation.
Pruka is unsure of whether students can get reimbursed for items stolen from the laundry room and that this would be up to the University.
There are several ways students can report theft to DUPD: “You can file it through the LiveSafe app or on the Duke Police website or file by phone where you can have an officer come to your location and take a report that way,” Pruka said.
Reports of vandalism in the laundry room and bathrooms
Reports of theft are part of a long list of student misconduct in the Kilgo P laundry room since the beginning of the fall semester.
On Sept. 22, Jordan Viars, residence coordinator for Keohane and Wannamaker Quads, sent out an email to all Kilgo residents that “the laundry rooms … were trashed overnight. The shelves were tossed on top of washers, baskets were tossed across the room, and machines were still filled with clothes … when staff arrived to start their day.”
Because of the vandalism and stealing, Sophie Wu, a sophomore and RA, said that RAs now have to visit the laundry rooms on their rounds and make notes of anything they see.
When asked about any recent reports of vandalism, the RA said that the RA doing rounds last Monday noticed one of the vending machines was kicked in; additionally, a divider between the two rows of washers was “ripped out of the side.”
Vandalism in Kilgo is not unique to the laundry room. The RA added that RAs have also received reports of residents “taking off bathroom fixtures, like sinks and toilets.”
Kerstin Bryant, residence coordinator of Crowell and Kilgo Quads, did not respond to a request for comment.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.