University reimburses students as TUPD pursues suspect

Martha Sanchez, Staff Reporter

Tulane University has reimbursed almost half of students who reported dorm thefts after Hurricane Ida and issued one arrest warrant linked to the campus crime surge. 

After Hurricane Ida, some students returned to campus to find personal belongings stolen from their residence halls. Tulane University Police Department received 367 total theft reports. 

How did the University respond to the increase in theft after Ida? (Maryam Tanveer)

After receipt of a theft report, TUPD would visit students to conduct an initial investigation. Students had to prove they owned the items by submitting receipts, credit card statements or photos to Tulane. They could then request insurance claims to get money back for their stolen belongings. Tulane has reimbursed 164 students so far for their losses. 

Further investigations are ongoing. TUPD issued an arrest warrant for an employee of an outside contractor hired by Tulane to inspect dorm rooms after the hurricane.

That employee stole a watch and ring from one room, police said. Tulane previously declined to release the name of the specific companies that they contracted in the aftermath of Ida. 

“This is an unfortunate instance of an individual or individuals taking advantage of an emergency situation,” TUPD Chief Kirk Bouyelas said.

TUPD tracked the watch through its serial number to a pawn shop in San Antonio. The ring was pawned in Biloxi, Mississippi. 

Bouyelas said that because most items lack a serial number, they are difficult to track. If the suspect is arrested, TUPD could learn more about other cases. These investigations have been a top priority for the department, Bouyelas said. 

Sharp Hall resident Rae Stevenson filed a theft report regarding two gold chains and a coin purse with TUPD. An officer came to report what she had stolen and then she got an email asking for pictures of the items. A week later, a Tulane administrator notified her that her insurance claim was approved. She is waiting on a check for the value of her stolen items. 

“Other than it just being kind of a slow process … there haven’t been any issues,” Stevenson said. 

The Office of Enterprise Risk Services helped create the process for reviewing insurance claims, evaluating them and working with students to document lost items. The office is still determining the total cost of reimbursing students.  

As part of our ongoing review of emergency protocols, we are developing strategies to avoid such a situation in the future,” Mike Strecker, assistant vice president for communications, said. 

The deadline for reporting theft has expired, but students who have already contacted TUPD can submit documentation for their stolen items until Nov. 12. Tulane will reimburse all valid insurance claims with sufficient documentation.

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