Theft on campus disappears

Technology-related thefts on campus have essentially ceased since the rise in incidents last October.

Jerry Warner, interim vice president for academic affairs and provost had sent a memo to faculty and staff in the latter part of October, urging everyone to take any steps possible to prevent future theft of the expensive, new technology. Warner sent out a follow-up memo Jan. 12 letting his recipients know that the university has not experienced additional losses since his last e-mail.

“There are probably many reasons for this,” Warner said, “but I am inclined to believe that many of you have played a role in this success by simply paying attention to the use of theses classrooms and the equipment within them.”

According to Jeff Martin, interim chief of police at the Department of Public Safety, everyone has been doing their part to put a stop to the loss of “smart classroom” equipment.

“The officers are keenly aware of the thefts and are on extra guard for unusual activity,” Martin said.

However, DPS stresses that the situation is not completely under their control.

“Professors and students have been asked to report anything that just does not look right to them,” Martin said. “The best possible person to notice unusual activity is someone that is there each day.

“When something does not appear right, chances are it isn’t. Call us and we will be glad to check it out.”

Lynne Smith, education professor, says the college of education has been taking the appropriate precautions against technology-related thefts in their department.

“About two or three years ago we got a really large technology grant, so all of our classrooms are smart classrooms,” Smith said. “That’s been a huge advantage to us, but it also of course means we need to be very careful.

“Certainly we care about the university’s concerns, but also then we’ve added our own because we’ve been able to do so much with that technology money through the grant.”

In the past, some departments have failed to comply with DPS recommendations to install locks on all doors and have them locked when not in use. Department’s claims were that their students would not have adequate access to their classrooms and labs.

There are signs on nearly every door in the Business, Education, and Psychology building reminding professors to lock the doors of rooms when not in use.

“Personally, I just see [locking doors] as one of the responsibilities that goes with having the technology to use,” Smith said.

To Smith’s understanding, access to rooms has not posed a major problem up to this point.

“[Students] would always be happy to have more hours of access, I’m sure, but I don’t think we’ve lost anything,” she said. “In the long run, we have to look at protecting the technology so it’s there for everybody.”

Warner addressed this issue in his original memo from October, saying, “I am well aware of many problems that come along with [locking doors]… Unfortunately, when we are under siege, as it seems we are, everyone may have to be unconvinced a bit.”

“It’s kind of a catch-22,” Smith said, “because before we had the technology, there wasn’t anything in there to lose. Now that it’s in there, we’ve just had to be more careful.”

Warner did warn members of the university community not to let their guard down. He indicated in the memo that there are no doubt still people on campus who would steal technology equipment.

“We’ve always tried to be really careful, [but] it’s certainly good to be reminded,” Smith said. “We all see it as such a benefit. We want it to be there.”

In addition to all the extra safety measures the university has taken, Information Technology has also started installing “Sonic Shock Alarms” in certain classrooms.

According to Gary Pratt, associate provost for IT, these devices “emit a very loud alarm if equipment is removed from its location. The alarm is attached to the piece of equipment and will continue to emit the alarm for hours after it has been removed.”

As for now, only five rooms have these alarms installed. These are all rooms that have experienced thefts during the fall semester. IT has more on order, and all new installations of “smarts” are scheduled to be equipped with the alarm. Current plans include going back to already installed rooms throughout the semester. Each Sonic Shock Alarm is priced under $100.

“Overall, diligence on the part of faculty, staff, and students is our most effective deterrent and preventative measure,” Pratt said. “Everyone’s efforts to help monitor classroom equipment have helped curb the thefts.

“The Sonic Shock devices are a relatively inexpensive method of attracting immediate attention to equipment that is being removed inappropriately.”