Theft victims lose more than just laptops

Jesse Weisbeck

When a thief stole a University professor’s laptop computer Wednesday, the professor lost something far more irreplaceable than $1,700 in hardware: four months of tedious financial research.
However, police rarely investigate computer thefts because suspects are elusive; most laptop thefts occur without a break-in, leaving no clues for police. So victims just lose those years of hard work, said Sgt. Bill Chaplin of the Minneapolis Police Department.
And that leaves people like Walid Busaba in a quandary.
Busaba, a finance professor in the Carlson School of Management, lost public offerings research when his University-owned laptop computer was stolen from his office.
“I felt really bad, like I was helpless; like there was nothing I could do,” Busaba said.
The suspect stole Busaba’s laptop while the professor was in the next room speaking with a colleague. He also took a briefcase, which contained personal documents and the computer.
But the computer loss was a secondary concern for Busaba.
“I lost a lot of work — that’s the saddest thing about it,” Busaba said. “I’ll have to go back and try to reconstruct all my research and do it over again.”
Even though computer thefts are moderate at the University right now, Chaplin expressed concern about students and faculty members whose academic performance suffers from the losses. University students’ grades are hurt when they lose data by computer thefts, he said.
About seven to eight computers are stolen on campus monthly, and that’s a significant drop from the 17 computer thefts the University experienced during period between June and July, University Police said.
But the number of thefts aren’t what police are concerned about right now; cases like Busaba’s are.
“Some of the student victims are losing up to two years of school work not backed up on disks,” Chaplin said. “Everyone should back their work up on disks to avoid this fate.”
But for Busaba, back-up disks weren’t enough. All he can do now is hope the thief will return his work.
“I would like to ask the thief if he could somehow drop the disks off to me,” he said.