University Police arrested a man following reports of a string of thefts on campus.
A BYU employee noticed her wallet was missing from her office in the Eyring Science Center and immediately filed a report with University Police on Dec. 4. Officer Richard Laursen and Lt. Jeff Long followed a hunch based on previous campus thefts and went to the FrontRunner station in Orem where they confronted Steven Michael Gibbs, who they said fit the description of a man seen in security video from previous campus thefts.
Laursen said Gibbs, 54, admitted taking the wallet and told the officers where he had hidden it. Gibbs was booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of burglary, unlawful use of a credit card and outstanding warrants.
Laursen said police are investigating whether Gibbs is connected to four previous theft cases on campus: one in the Tanner Building in July 2019, one in the Richards Building in September, and one each in the Joseph F. Smith Building and the Benson Building in October. In each case, a suspect is believed to have used public transportation to get to and from campus and used the stolen credit cards to make fraudulent purchases at Wendy’s, Chick-Fil-A, CVS, and other locations just west of the BYU campus.
Long called the thefts “brazen” with the thief taking advantage of the university’s trusting culture and high concentration of people.
The university released a campus theft warning on Nov. 6 with pictures of a man captured from security footage. “Please be on the lookout for a male suspect who may be associated with the theft of wallets and purses in open offices on campus,” the warning said.
Long hopes this incident will remind students and faculty to use caution and not be take advantage of BYU’s trusting culture. “Criminals know that we’re easy pickings,” Long said. “Know that you could be a victim and take extra caution to make sure your stuff isn’t out in the open.”
Long also commented on the potential decertification of the university police force, saying the main sacrifice would be the response time to campus crimes, calling University Police’s quick response time was integral to Gibbs’ arrest.
“We’re here on campus. We know campus, and our response time is a minute in most cases,” Long said of the BYU campus police. “That’s something that really concerns us is that our whole goal is to keep this campus safe, and response time is a big part of that, so that would be a thing that we’d really miss around here.”
Anyone who sees something suspicious on campus is encouraged to call University Police Investigations at 801-422-5216.