On-campus property theft was higher this fall semester than spring, which is consistent with trends from the past two years, according to Manager of Patrol Operations Cpt. Norman Bailey.
This year, the increase in property theft was due to the number of laptops stolen. The Department of Public Safety reported that in fall 2010, 22 laptops were stolen. Seventeen laptops have been stolen so far this spring semester, as of April 7.
Public Safety said there was an increase in laptop computers stolen in residence halls, particularly from unlocked dorm rooms.
“Obviously, we have issues of students in the dorms just walking out for a minute,” Sergeant Andy Yocum said of laptop theft in residence halls. “We had a call a week ago where somebody had left just for a minute and their laptop was gone when they returned. So we try to stress to people that, even if they’re going to be gone for a few seconds, to lock their door.”
Day Shift Supervisor Sgt. Ian Greenlee said laptops are the most commonly stolen item in the residence halls. He said that about 70 percent of the time, laptops are taken from rooms with unlocked doors, rather than common areas.
Greenlee said that laptop theft is a campus-wide occurrence and unattended laptops are also easy targets in the library.
Two arrests involving laptop theft in the library occurred over two consecutive days in November 2010, one of an AU affiliate and one of someone not connected with the University, according to Bailey.
Greenlee said that laptop thefts in the library or elsewhere on campus occur because they are crimes of opportunity.
“You really just have to be aware of your surroundings all the time,” Greenlee said.
Greenlee also said the library is difficult to patrol for laptop thefts because of the ability to steal a laptop and put it in a backpack.
“If we stopped everybody that had a backpack on, we’d be stopping everyone on campus,” Greenlee said. “It’s easy when you can blend into a community like this. It makes it a lot more challenging to try to catch the perpetrators of these types of crimes.”
The ability to blend into the community can be dangerous for a metropolitan campus. Police Staff Duty Officer Kevin Mason said AU’s proximity to the Metro system would allow property crimes to reach the campus.
“Dupont Circle is three or four stops away on the Metro, so anything that happens at Dupont Circle can happen here,” Mason said. “If you look at the campus, we don’t have walls around the campus. It’s an open campus.”
Eight bikes were also stolen in fall 2010. During the fall 2009 semester, the spike in level of bike theft contributed to the rise of property theft, with 48 bikes stolen.