Burglary at STAC – Campus Safety Director Speaks on Investigation, Safety Tips

Andrew Dacuba, Editor in Chief

On October 12, Campus Health and Safety Director James Nawoichyk sent out a crime alert to STAC students, regarding an incident on campus where four unknown males burglarized the Fitzpatrick 400 Building.

The men arrived at campus at approximately 1:18 A.M from Route 340. After encountering two students who were not harmed, they stole personal items from a resident’s room and left by motor vehicle.

Mr. Nawoichyk spoke to the Thoma regarding the events that transpired that night, potential updates on the investigation, and safety tips for students.

Nawoichyk stated that the incident was not reported as a burglary, however, he and several other Campus Safety officers working that night are retired law enforcement, and they quickly knew what they were dealing with.

Campus Safety contacted the Orangetown Police Department, and the two immediately began a joint investigation.

Nawoichyk spoke on how the close relationship the two organizations have has made collaboration between them very easy.

“I think what’s important for everybody to know is that we work well with the police department all the time,” Nawoichyk said. 

“We just did a great partnership where they took tours of the campus, so when they respond, they know what the campus is like.”

Regarding the investigation, he stated that Orangetown Police do not currently have anything concrete to share but the investigation is still ongoing.

In his 12 years serving STAC, Nawoichyk said this was the first time any event of this sort happened. However, this has not deterred Campus Safety from working to prevent such events in the future.

“Typical of any incident that happens here at STAC, we do an after action review… we talk about what happened. You know, are there things we could do better? Are there things that we couldn’t prevent?” he said regarding the steps taken following the incident.

Nawoichyk detailed the measures already in place to help keep students safe. These include patrols on foot and by vehicle, camera coverage of critical areas, and officers stationed at the main gates at night.

Nawoichyk emphasized the importance of the officers’ relationship with the students to the safety of the campus.

“They recognize people- even on a gate, they’re contract officers, but they know our students by their first name… Which in turn means when somebody isn’t here often, or is a visitor, they recognize that too,” he said.

As for the lessons learned from the burglary, Nawoichyk stated they did identify an area where security could be further enhanced.  Adjustments were quickly made in that area.

For students who may find themselves involved in a burglary or similar event, Nawoichyk had several important tips.

First and foremost, he recommends that you make clear to the robber that you intend to cooperate.

“I tell people you can replace your wallet, you can’t replace your life,” he said.

He advises that you give them what they want, not any more than what is asked of you, and not to make any sudden movements in doing so.

“Say, okay, I’m gonna grab my wallet, it’s in my back pocket. So that way they know what you’re doing.”

It is also important to be forward thinking by trying to, as subtle as possible, make a mental picture of the suspect.

“Start at the top and work your way down,” Nawoichyk recommended, from hair, to eyes, to facial hair all the way down to shoes.

“As soon as the bad person leaves and you’ve gotten to a safe place and you’ve called 9-1-1, jot [the description] down so you don’t forget it.”

Aside from physical descriptions, Nawoichyk also recommended having an eye for any other minor details. 

The robbers may call each other by name, they may touch a certain object which they will leave fingerprints on, etc. Details like this will greatly help investigators.

Most importantly, he still emphasized, is giving what is demanded of you because it cannot be more important than your life.

“You don’t have to be a hero,” he said.