By Tal Ben Yakir and Levin Stamm
— On Friday, 19 November, a would-be thief attempted to steal a laptop from a project room in the Academic Building (AB). The thief would have succeeded, were it not for one AUC student. First-year Science major Igor Alexander Duijvestijn gave chase to the thief. After a short sprint, the latter threw down a backpack containing the stolen laptop and ran away.
What had happened? On Friday noon, Evaline Elere, a third-year Science major and the laptop’s rightful owner, left the project room in which she was studying to get a glass of water from the tap upstairs. The room was on the first floor, in one of the more empty corridors in the AB, and there were no friends to keep an eye on her belongings. Elere would only be gone for a minute, and felt the AB was a safe enough place.
As she left the room, she saw a man standing next to the large windows, looking out of them. The man, wearing a black jacket and a backpack, looked a bit out of place. Elere says that, right away, she “thought he was weird. Nobody just stands there staring out of the windows. People are always talking with each other, walking around, studying.” However, Elere kept walking, not giving the man another thought.
When she returned to the project room, she noticed that both the man and her laptop were gone. “At that moment I knew he stole it, but I couldn’t believe it actually happened,” she says.
She went to the project room next to hers and told the students sitting there her laptop had been stolen. She asked if they had noticed anything strange, or seen the man who might have taken it. One of the students was Duijvestijn. He got up and walked with Elere to the windows on the first floor. There, they saw the man walking away from the AB over the bridge. Elere immediately recognised him with his backpack. Duijvestijn said, “I’m gonna follow him,” and started running.
As Duijvestijn sprinted out of the Academic Building, the security officer by the entrance called out after him, since he was racing out of the building without a mask. The thief was walking past the Science Doner cart in the direction of the UvA building. When he spotted Duijvestijn running after him, he began to run as well. Despite the thief’s head start, Duijvestijn caught up with him within 30 seconds. Duijvestijn explains that he is in the AUC running club and that the thief wasn’t running very quickly. “He was trying, but not to running club standards.”
Elere exclaims how happy she is that Duijvestijn was there to help. She laughs that his training and his hard work have definitely paid off. “I was running behind him and I was so slow.”
When the thief saw that Duijvestijn had already caught up, he threw the backpack onto the pavement and kept running. Duijvestijn stopped following him at that point. He says, “I didn’t know what I was supposed to do and also didn’t want to risk getting stabbed.”
Once Duijvestijn returned with the backpack, he and Elere explained the situation to the people working at the service desk at the entrance of the AB. They inspected the backpack and found it empty, save for a receipt from a French ATM machine, detailing a transaction made around the 15th of November. Duijvestijn remarks, “either the person had come from France a few days ago, or the backpack is also stolen.” Though the receipt had a name on it, they do not know whether that is the thief’s name.
The employee who was working at the service desk at the time recalls seeing the man walking into the AB with his own backpack. She thought he looked kind of like a student, saying he was pretty young. Duijvestijn also remarks that the thief looked like he could have been a student. The employee states that it is very difficult to discern who is a student and who is not, and that it is not possible to check everyone entering the building. As of now, they suspect it was a person from outside of AUC.
After Elere and Duijvestijn left, the employee contacted the police and gave them the students’ contact details. The backpack and the receipt they gave to Elere, who still has them in her room.
Elere states she is immensely grateful for Duijvestijn’s help, especially since she did not know him at all before the incident. Duijvestijn affirms that Elere thanked him, and adds that he was told he would get the backpack as a reward if it will not be confiscated by the police as evidence.
Friday’s incident is not an exception. A few weeks earlier, two first-year students reportedly got their laptops stolen. It remains unclear whether the thief was the same person that attempted stealing Elere’s laptop. Duijvestijn remarks that “the thief must have known the building. He went to a quite hidden project room. I guess it wasn’t the first time that he stole something from the AB.”
Elere reflects about how different she feels about the AB since the incident. “I always thought it was kind of cozy, you know everyone there. Now I know that there might be people who steal things, that’s kinda scary.”