Breaches in Rutgers residence hall security raises eyebrows
Every now and then, various menus from local eateries appear underneath doors in residence halls. But what is stopping these people from knocking on the door to tell occupants about their “specials,” or even going into unlocked rooms? How do they get in the building in the first place?
The Daily Targum visited various residence halls Saturday night to see how accessible they actually are, and the results are unsettling. Out of seven halls visited, only one denied access to outside visitors.
While Buildings A and B of the Livingston Apartments have a desk that anyone entering or exiting the building must pass, Building C has a secondary door with swipe access into the lounge. The desks do not have anyone checking IDs until around 8 p.m., and no one is present during the day.
From the investigation, most residents would allow anyone yelling a simple “Hold the door!” into the buildings, regardless of whether or not they live there. This breach of security opens up the possibility of multiple problems for residents in the hall.
Lt. Brian Emmett of the Rutgers University Police Department said in an email statement, safety within residence halls is a priority. During peak hours of traffic in and out of the buildings, Residence Life has staff stationed at the entrances to check Rutgers IDs and housing keys and also sign in guests.
“Residence Life staff conducts nightly rounds to safeguard residents,” he said.
At Quad 2 on Livingston campus, students again held the door open and allowed access to their building as well as the adjoining buildings through the tunnel system underneath the buildings. Multiple doors were open, some to rooms without occupants inside.
Inside the Quads, instead of a check-in desk at the entrance, residents inside the buildings know the Resident Assistants walk around and check rooms.
On the College Avenue campus, a student in Mettler Hall allowed an individual inside and held the door open for outside visitors.
The RA on duty and Community Assistants sat at the desk, and stopped visitors as they walked past. Although they asked why the Daily Targum staff was in the building, they never asked for identification and subsequently allowed access to all floors without having to check in.
Ian Luxenberg, a CA in Mettler Hall, said after 10 p.m. someone who lives in the building must swipe and check in other students who do not live there.
“They need to show a picture ID [that] we verify, and then the resident is responsible for the person being checked in for the duration of their time here,” he said. “If people are coming in with a big group, they sign them all in and go upstairs.”
Rachel Cohen, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said the security of the residence hall was not one of her major concerns.
“I don’t really care. Anyone can walk into the building at any point in time. No one’s ever there,” she said, referring to the check-in desk. “It probably should be [a concern,] but it’s not.”
While she is not fearful of who enters her building, Cohen said she always locks her door when she leaves her room.
At University Center on Easton Avenue, swipe access is required to enter the building, the elevator and the stairwell to access the various floors.
Following a single resident into the building, The Daily Targum reporters were able to walk into the lobby and wait for an elevator, then enter the elevator without the RA and two CAs sitting at the entrance desk stopping them.
Mariana Johnson, a resident at University Center, said the desk varies as to how strict they are with visitors entering the building, depending on who is sitting at the desk.
“You can usually just follow people in at certain times,” said Johnson, a Rutgers Business School senior. “You can walk [in] like you own the place and they don’t really question you unless they really don’t recognize you.”
Eric Francisco, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said he has friends in the building, and they tell him to follow someone in when he visits.
“I have a lot of friends in this building, and they are just like, ‘Yeah, come on up,’” he said. “I’m like, ‘You sure?’ and they say, ‘Yeah, just come on in.’”
The security for most of the residence halls on College Ave is relaxed, Johnson said.
“I think it’s most buildings — College Ave dorms,” she said. “The river dorms, it was the same way. You [could] just kind of walk in.”
The three students at the University Center desk admitted that depending on the amount of people entering, they cannot check in everyone coming into the building.
“We do the best that we can to stop and make sure everyone who doesn’t live here gets signed in,” said Nana-Adwoa Marfo, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “There are going to be a few people that are going to get through, because we can’t stop everyone. We’re not cops.”
Nathaly Jaquez-Castro, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said their role with Residence Life does not allow them to go into the building to follow someone who does not sign in.
“We can’t leave the desk, so if somebody runs into the elevator. We can’t chase after them and see what floor they went to,” she said.
Despite allowing unauthorized people into the building, Castro said they do not call the RUPD unless a problem arises.
“We don’t call RUPD unless there is going to be a severe problem,” she said. “We can’t assume everyone is going to be a problem. We are not the cops, so we can’t jump in and go and chase the person. We just do the best that we can.”
Natasha Carlos, a Rutgers Business School senior, said for University Center’s location, she feels it is secure.
“It’s secure for where it’s at,” she said. “We are right next to downtown New Brunswick and the last of what is considered College Ave. So for what we are by, it’s considered safe.”
While people in groups may be able to enter the building, Castro said residents are told to make sure they secure their apartments.
“We tell all the residents … at all times they should lock their doors,” she said. “Once they leave their door unlocked, they are inviting people to come [in.]”
At Rockoff Hall, a security guard stops all visitors who enter the building and asks those who are not residents to wait outside until they can have someone come down and sign them in.
It was the only hall that took these security measures.
Emmett said students should always report any suspicious activity in residence halls immediately.
“The residents are in the best position to know if something is out of the ordinary and they are encouraged to call the Rutgers Police Department … at any time,” he said. “Rutgers police respond to and investigate all reports of suspicious activity.”
In the event of an emergency, RUPD, along with the RAs, review security cameras, which are placed at all entrances to residence halls and record 24 hours a day, Emmett said.
Residence Life declined to comment at the time of publication.