On Oct. 15 and 16, multiple vehicle break-ins took place on Rocky Mountain College’s campus, initiating an ongoing investigation to find the perpetrators. Amberly Tanzosh, RMC’s Campus Safety Coordinator, said “We are working closely with the Billings Police Department. I have handed over all surveillance and still images to them, which hopefully aids in their investigation. Some students have shared the images and email that I sent out on social media platforms, which I love. Students are being proactive and that has resulted in possible tips as far as suspect identification and even possible tips about the car.”
As reported in an email sent out to students early on Oct. 15 by Shaydean Saye, Director of Residence Life, “a black 4-door car entered the Anderson/Widenhouse parking lot. Two white males exited the vehicle and began checking door handles.” The suspects had flashlights, which they used to peer into student cars to check for valuables. They subsequently forced entry into two trucks and stole items from each vehicle before leaving the area. The next morning they came back with a third person and again peered into cars with flashlights. There was a forced entry into a vehicle in the Rimview parking lot, and suspects broke the window out of one car and entered two vehicles that were unlocked in the North Jorgenson lot. Before the culprits could do any more damage, a “student who had heard the glass break called BPD and was tracking the men. When they spotted him, they quickly ran back to their car before being able to do whatever they were about to and exited the parking lot at a high rate of speed,” Saye reported.
“Students are concerned and I understand. They should be,” stated Tanzosh. “However, without it being said outright, it seems as though a couple of them feel it is the fault of the college that their vehicles were broken into, or that entry was gained to their vehicle because they left it unlocked. It’s not the fault of the college, just like it wouldn’t be the fault of a restaurant in downtown Billings if a vehicle was broken into outside their business. It is solely on the criminal who committed the crime. Rocky Mountain College is not liable for any break-ins, just like it is not liable for any damage to cars not moved for events such as the tailgates, homecoming, etc. Does that mean we don’t care about the property on this campus such as cars? Of course not.”
“We care a great deal and that is why we often urge everyone on campus to secure their vehicles, not leave items in their vehicles and secure their rooms in the residence halls. And we do everything we can to help BPD when such incidents happen as well as notify students, faculty, and staff.” she added.
Following the break-ins, there was some discussion among students pertaining the quality of cameras RMC uses for security purposes. Tanzosh addressed this concern stating, “I understand some students were frustrated with the quality of the images that I sent out. Not all cameras on campus are equal. The cameras that captured those images are actually great cameras. When watching the video footage, it is smooth and easy to make out the faces. However, when pausing on a moving object, it doesn’t matter the quality of the camera, it wouldn’t be as fluid as when one is watching the video. I think Campus Safety is one of those areas that’s easy to imagine what one would do differently or do better when one is on the outside looking in, but not knowing all of the behind the scenes work. I do appreciate hearing from students though. If I don’t hear from them what their concerns are, those concerns cannot be addressed.”
Campus Safety is open to receiving ideas from students on how to better serve the RMC community. Feedback is encouraged because “it shows that students are invested in this community and are looking out for their fellow students,” said Tanzosh. “I do want to continue to be available to hear student’s ideas and concerns, even if it is not something that can be put in place now, that doesn’t mean it’s completely ruled out for the future.”
According to information found on RMC’s website, students can take preemptive steps to minimize the potential for vehicle break-ins by removing all items from their cars, locking all doors, checking their surroundings, and reporting any suspicious activity.
Speaking on the burglaries Tanzosh added, “This is not just happening at Rocky Mountain College. It is happening all over Billings and BPD is working very hard on these cases. I would again encourage students to stop leaving items in their vehicles and make sure all doors are locked. Also, if any student has any information on the suspects, please get that information to BPD as soon as possible.”