Rising theft on campus is costing the university

Theft on campus in 2001 increased 28 percent from the previous year, costing Northern Kentucky University and its students a total of $63,000.

Of the $63,000, $46,000 was campus property, most of which hasn’t been recovered, said Jeff Butler, director of the Department of Public Safety. Thieves hit the department of Information Technology hardest last year.

Three of the department’s 35 “smart” classrooms around campus had expensive equipment stolen from them, including overhead projectors valued at $5,000 each, said Butler. Smart classrooms contain technologically advanced equipment like central processing units and rear projection screens.

Col. Jeff Martin, assistant director of DPS who is investigating the thefts, said the classroom thefts were most likely related.

“All those type of thefts have been similar,” Martin said. “It is high-tech equipment that has a small market.”

Because the stolen goods are unusual and not practical for home use, Martin said tracing it on the underground market will be difficult. Both IT and DPS declined to release a list of the specific items stolen from the rooms.

IT responded to the thefts by securing the expensive equipment in the rooms, said Bert Brown, Associate Director of Information Technology. Brown declined to elaborate on all of the precautions taken, but said some of the equipment has been physically fastened to the room, and technicians check the rooms for missing items daily.

Securing all the equipment on campus is a daunting task, Brown said.

“One of the largest problems on campus is that we can’t monitor it all,” Brown said.

Other items stolen from NKU include a trailer used by a concrete company working on campus, a set of furniture from a lounge in Chase Law School and a conference table from Albright Health Center.

In an effort to curb further stealing, Butler urged faculty and students to keep close tabs on their belongings.

“We want to get the word out for people to become more cognizant of their property and be more alert,” Butler said.

Butler used the example of a student leaving a laptop computer on the seat of her convertible to illustrate what not to do.

Decals in cars became a common target of thieves last year, said Butler, with 21 stolen. In addition, 22 decals were found to be forgeries.

Unlocked car doors resulted in many thefts. One victim, freshman Radio/Television major Adam Holzman, walked to his car in Lot E in October 2001 only to find his compact discs and radar detector missing. He said there was no sign of forced entry on the car, and said it was possible he left the door unlocked.

“I just got into the door and everything was missing,” Holzman said.

To address security issues, Vice President of Administrative Affairs Mike Baker is assembling a task force of faculty, physical plant workers and DPS officers. Baker said he also wants the help of students in catching theft on campus. He is hopeful with the help of others, they will be able to track the people who stole the equipment from IT.

“There are a lot of people on this campus, and someone has to see something,” Baker said. “If everybody keeps their eyes and ears open, someone will tip us. We will catch the thief.”