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Storage units hit by thieves

Justin Tardiff | Friday, September 12, 2003

Several Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students returned to campus this year to find their storage units at Mini Storage Depot and Airport Mini Storage were robbed – and many incurred damages in the thousands of dollars.

Saint Mary’s junior Lora Wilcomb returned to South Bend Aug. 26 and was shocked to find everything she had left in storage missing. Now, two weeks into the school year, Wilcomb is still working to settle into her dorm room – a task that is behind most students.

Wilcomb, who rented a unit from Mini Storage Depot on Grape Road, noticed that the lock on her storage unit looked unfamiliar and could not be opened with her key. After several attempts, she contacted a worker at the storage company who informed her of recent break-ins and that “someone might have cut off the lock and put a new one on.”

The worker proceeded to saw off the lock and open the unit, which was found empty aside from a $10 bookshelf and fan.

The worker immediately went to her office and called police.

“The most upsetting part was that I had made a bulletin board of pictures I had taken while studying in Rome,” Wilcomb said. “I had put all this time into making it and it’s so sad I don’t have that anymore.”

Photos of Wilcomb’s high school friends were also missing, along with an estimated $3,800 worth of belongings. Items missing included a computer, TV, bedding, all of her winter clothes and various dorm room commodities.

After police arrived at the scene, Wilcomb filed a report and noticed the storage worker did not appear to be concerned.

“When I talked with the woman who works at Mini Depot, she told me there have been employees in the past who have broken into storage units and stolen things, but they have since been fired,” Wilcomb said.

The woman who Wilcomb spoke with that day was unavailable for comment.

Melissa, an employee at the storage facility who declined to provide her last name, said, “When a [storage] lease is signed, renters sign a waiver stating that they are responsible for providing their own insurance, and are liable for the items stored in their unit.”

A fence surrounds the units at the Mini Storage Depot and it requires an access code to open. Several security cameras also monitor the premises.

Liesl Yost, another Saint Mary’s junior who stored her belongings at Mini Storage Depot this summer, said these security measures were not sufficient.

“Someone could have easily come in from behind the facility and hopped the fence,” Yost said.

Yost’s storage unit was also broken into and several of her possessions taken. An air mattress and pump, comforter, stereo and a pair of Calvin Klein shoes were among the missing items.

After she contacted Mini Storage Depot, Yost said, “They basically told me, ‘Tough luck, you should have gotten insurance on it.'”

Yost, who didn’t purchase insurance on the unit when she signed the renter’s lease, did buy a lock from the storage company to secure her unit.

Yost has yet to file a police report, but plans to in the future.

Notre Dame junior Ray Kilway and five other Fisher Hall residents returned to school to find that their storage unit at the Airport Mini Storage on Mayflower Road had been broken into. Kilway estimated that $5,000 worth of possessions was missing, including two computers, three monitors, a VCR, a Sega Dreamcast, video games and CDs.

Kilway and the other renters filed a police report with St. Joseph County, but were told unless the serial numbers of the electronic items were known, it will be almost impossible to retrieve the missing items. No insurance was purchased on the storage unit at the time of rental.

“We didn’t think it was going to be broken in to,” Kilway said.

Wilcomb, Yost and Kilway have all had to repurchase or do without the items stolen from their storage units. Aside from Wilcomb, who is protected under her family homeowner’s insurance policy, none of the other theft victims will receive compensation for their lost belongings.