Life at Sloane House YMCA

2006-05-18

Thief of Sloane House

I lived on the 7th floor, facing west side, a corner room that was much roomier. Normal room was 6 x 10; my room was 7 x 12. It was considered a luxury room on the floor. It used to be the room for the student who had call girls before. When he moved out, I asked for that room right away and Sloane House let me have it.

One night I was woken up by the light on my eyes. It came from the hallway through my door. My door was opened. I was very suspicious since I clearly remembered I left the door chain on before I slept. I sensed someone had broken into my room while I was sleeping. I took the knife from under my pillow and walked out of the door in my pajamas. I saw a guy with a bag in his hand, entering Sonya’s room. I usually knew who Sonya was dating, but I didn’t recognize him. As I approached to Sonya’s room, Gina came out of the elevator. I asked her to keep an eye on Sonya’s door and I pickup the house phone calling front desk. By the time the night shift staff answered the phone, Gina signaled to me that a guy came out of Sonya’s room. I pulled out my knife and asked him what he was doing in Sonya’s room. He dropped the bag in his hand and started running downstairs through the fire exit. I ran after him, with a knife in my one hand and holding my pajamas with the other. I lost him as I came down to the second floor. Gina and Sonya came to the 2nd floor a few minutes later. They were more afraid that I got hurt. Sonya said she was in the shower when all these happened. The guy must have waited until Sonya started shampooing and just took the room key without Sonya noticing it. Since the key had the room number on it, it was easy to find the room. Cases like this had happened before, but it usually involved tourists.

Tish was on duty that night. Tish was promoted to new security chief after Big John retired. I told him the guy was still in the building. Tish wanted to search the entire building and asked me to help him since I was the only person who could identify the thief. Gina and Sonya tried to persuad me not to do it but I was on fire and fearless at that moment. I felt I was being violated and had this urge for revenge. It was always dangerous when man reaches that point, a point of losing reasoning and commen sense and on the verge of being violent. Tish grabbed his gun and I pickup a baseball bat. Two of us started searching from the roof.

We searched every bathroom and door way on each floor. As we came to the 6th floor, it was almost 4:00 in the morning. Suddenly we heard a female screaming from the floor below us. We rushed to downstairs. The scream came from the 4th floor. We found the student in the lady’s room. She was shaken up with a terrifying look on her face. She told us while she was about to take a shower, a man came out of one of the 3 shower curtains and ran away. Tish and I ran out of the building, tried to find him. He got away.

Two weeks after this incident, I spotted him in the lobby, standing not too far from the check point. I quietly phoned security guard, asking him not to alert the guy and pretend to be a routine, casual check for his room key. I knew he was standing by the check point, waiting for the right moment to sneak in the building. But surprisingly, he pulled his room key from his pocket and showed it to the security. I couldn't believe it when the security guard told the thief had a room key. Right away I called my manager and explained the situation to him. The manager checked his name in the computer. His name on the ID did not match any names in our computer. So the mangger asked him to surrender his room key. The thief had this what's-going-on look on his face, pretended to be clueless. In the mean time. The security guard and I went to his room on the 14th floor. The room was full of stolen goods. There were hundreds of item, piles of walkmans and all kinds of clothing. I found my walkman and a pair of pants. I took back my walkman but throw away the pants. We did not have the authority to arrest him and management did not want to bother with it. So we had to let him go. I was wondering how in the world he got a room in the building. Each day the computer genereted a occupancy report. If certain unoccupied rooms had no keys, our engineer would changed the lock the same day, to prevent things like this. A quick thought came to my mind that there may have been a mole inside Sloane House, working with this thief. But I got rid of this thought quickly. It was not my responsibility and besides, there were enough things in life that I had to deal with at the time.

A few weeks later he was caught again by a French tourist on the 5th floor. The French tourist came back from shower, wondering where his key was. His door was shut so he stood by his door, waiting for security guard to open his door. Suddenly he saw a guy came out of his room. Surprised at first, he then saw this guy had his belongings in his hand. Right away he realized he was robbed. The French tourist knew "Kong Fu" so he nailed the guy easily. The security guard and the French tourist took him to the police station on 35th Street. The security chief asked me to go to the police station to help identifying the guy. For whatever the reason the police said they had to release him within 24 hours if not found guilty. I was furious. Back home if things like that happened, the guy would have no chance of getting away. He would be "taken care of" very well in the hands of policemen. Police back home were always on the victim’s side. This was not the case here, the land of the law where a person was presumed innocent- even he got caught right handed. I still have a tough time to understand this logic.

Nothing I could do to change the mind of the world’s finest. I was frustrated.

Realizing he could get away easily, he came back a few more times. One day I was passing the cafeteria that connected to back doorway, I saw him running to the back door. I sensed he just stole something from Sloane House so I started chasing him. The back door was on 33rd Street side. He made a left turn after getting the door open. The back door was locked from outside. People could not open the door from outside but it was very easy to open it from inside. It was our "underground railroad". My friends often used this door to "smug" a person from outside. He ran toward 8th, and made another left turn at the parking lot between 33rd and 34th street. He seemed surprise to see me right behind him and fearing of being caught by me. Well, he knew I was about to choke him at the police station and I guessed he was kind of scared. So he threw something on the ground in the parking lot. I was no match for him no matter how fast I ran and nobody on the street even bother to stop the guy. So I stopped and picked up the stuff he left on the ground. It was a stack of traveler checks. I took them back to the front desk and asked a casher to check if the person on the check was Sloane House resident. Just as we were checking on the computer, a female student came to the front desk and told us frantically that someone had just broke into her room and stole her checks. I showed her the check I just recovered. She was very happy to get her checks back but didn't bother to ask how I got them.

My room got robbed 5 more times. Only then I finally realized how this theif broke into my room: my room was a corner room, slightly bigger than the rest of the rooms on the floor. But right next to my 9th Avenue-view window it was the hallway window. The distance of the two windows was about a foot and half. Although it was dangerous, it was possible a person could climb into my window from the hallway window. There was no other way he could break in my room. He could get killed if he slipped. Having seen the thief up close myself in police station, I knew he could easily do it, if noone else could. I decided to do some preventative work: I placed a bottle behind my window curtain, so it was not visible from outside. But if the thief attempted to climb in to my room from the hallway window, he would knock down the bottle and I would be waken up before he got in my room. Hopefully he was still in between my window and the wall. I would run to the window and shut it right away, smashed his two hands on the edge of my window and he fell off the building, all the way on the ground, from the 7th floor. There was no he would survive the fall. I would just say "woop, poor guy! He slipped and fall. I wonder what he was doing.", if any one asked. I can't help it. He took all my possesions. One time he even cleaned my piggie bank. Lucky for him, he didn't get caught and my fantasy was just a fantasy after all.

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