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UH-Manoa burglaries suggest insider might be involved

By Rob Shikina

LAST UPDATED: 1:33 a.m. HST, Jul 30, 2011

The campus security department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa is looking into a series of vendor burglaries that have the imprint of an inside job.

Six burglaries over a period of four months targeting a parking vendor and a food concessionaire have led to a total loss of about $12,000 in cash, said Wayne Ogino, chief of campus security.

"We had several burglaries that indicate there may be some inside knowledge," Ogino said. "Any time something happens more than once, it's a pattern."

Four of the burglaries appear to have started in March when someone broke into Sodexo's office inside Les Murakami Stadium, the first time a burglary was ever committed at the stadium, Ogino said. Whoever broke in apparently scaled the fence to get inside the facility, then went directly to Sodexo's office, broke in and took off with about $10,000 in cash.

The office was hit again in May, but nothing was taken. That same month, someone broke into the Stan Sheriff Center and entered the locked Sodexo office two times, but nothing was taken. The burglaries usually happened on a weekend night and after a sporting event when there would be a large amount of cash in the office.

Campus security notified police about each incident and suspect a group of people might be responsible. Authorities have leads and persons of interest but no suspects, Ogino said.

"We think it might be drug-related because the burglaries appear to be high risk," Ogino said. "They're in areas that are normally secured, and we also have increased our patrols in those areas. Whoever was doing it was taking a big risk to come back."

In early June someone broke into a wooden portable building on East-West Road that houses a campus office for Ampco Parking System. Whoever broke in couldn't open the safe and ran off empty-handed. About two weeks later someone broke into the same office and took off with about $2,000 in cash after prying open a drop box safe, Ogino said.

Although the Sodexo and Ampco burglaries don't appear to be related, Ogino suspects they may have involved a current or former employee or someone who knows an employee.

"They knew about the internal procedures for cash handling," he said. "They knew where the cash was being kept. There were similarities too in the way the burglaries were committed."

Both companies have since strengthened security by adding motion detectors or security cameras, and Ampco hired a personal security guard, he said. Both companies also make more frequent deposits and carry less cash. Neither company returned a call for comment.

Another burglary by someone with inside knowledge apparently occurred in February when cash was taken from an office in Kennedy Theatre, apparently by a former employee, Ogino said.

But burglaries on the 300-acre campus usually are random, such as in May when a man broke into a campus office and got away but left behind a backpack containing burglary tools and motion-sensing devices. No arrest has been made, he said.

Ogino said burglaries tend to pick up during the summer when there are fewer people on campus, and prevention is important to reducing the incidents.

"It's very upsetting," he said. "It's just the fact that crime is occurring on campus. We're very concerned about that. We've advised the staff if they see something in progress, not to jump in there and confront the suspect, but to let us know right away."

He urged people to report suspicious people or activity to campus security at 956-6911.

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