Lock up your laptop

The number of stolen laptops on campus this year could easily beat last year’s total.

Kevin Behr

Assaults and robberies have dominated the headlines since fall, but the No. 1 crime plaguing campus is theft.

In 2006, 715 thefts were reported to police, said University Police Chief Greg Hestness. That’s nearly two thefts per day.

Although bicycles are still the most often stolen item on campus, with 137 last year, laptops are catching up, Hestness said.

Since Sept. 1, 2006, 58 computers or laptops have been stolen on campus property, said Steve Johnson, University police deputy chief.

A crime analysis compiled by University police investigators found 79 laptops were stolen during the 2005-2006 academic year. Of those, about 75 percent could have been prevented had owners not left their items unattended, according to the analysis.

Johnson said the majority of laptop thefts this year are also the result of people simply leaving their belongings unattended.

“If people treated their stuff like they do in the airport, we’d drastically reduce our thefts,” Johnson said. “Nobody leaves their stuff in the airport.”

Hestness said unattended laptops are “low-hanging fruit” for thieves to simply swipe when no one is looking.

With 58 laptops stolen already this academic year, the University is on pace to surpass last year’s total by quite a bit.

The number is higher this year because during one incident, 15 laptops were stolen, inflating the number greatly, Johnson said.

Jay Salinas, an economics senior, said he thought the rise in laptop thefts might be because the affordability of laptops has allowed more people to purchase them.

Aside from laptops and bicycles, purses and wallets are often stolen. Karen Boone, senior administrative director of the S.O.U.P. administrative center, knows this fact all too well.

On Dec. 29, Boone stepped out of her office for 20 minutes and returned to find her wallet stolen from the bottom drawer of her desk.

Since the theft, Boone said she locks her desk drawers and constantly keeps her office door locked.

“Everybody has a creepy feeling,” she said of her co-workers. “Now we have to lock everything up.”

She said the most frustrating part of her theft wasn’t losing money or going through the hassle of canceling bank and credit card accounts, but rather losing the sentimental items in her wallet, including pictures of her children.

“I wish they would just give it back,” she said.

The frustration doesn’t end with the victim either.

Hestness said thefts are the most frustrating crime for the police department. The probability of solving a theft case is low because many times there are no witnesses or substantial evidence, he said.

Security cameras have begun to help by providing pictures of thieves, but the most important thing people can do to protect themselves is to lock up their valuables and not to leave them unattended in public spaces.

Johnson advised the same thing, but reiterated the importance of doing so.

“The harder we make it for people to steal (laptops), the more likely (thieves) will go somewhere else where it’s easier,” he said.

People should also back up their work in case their laptop is stolen or even if they drop and break it, Johnson said.

“Laptops contain information that is priceless,” he said. “If it’s not backed up, you can’t replace lost research.”

Salinas said he wasn’t worried about theft on campus because he is always aware of his surroundings.

“I generally don’t leave my stuff alone,” he said. “It’s just one of those common sense kind of things.”