String of laptop thefts captivates campus
By Jamie Welch, Web Editor
Students at Gettysburg College are on high alert this week after a series of laptop thefts around campus have shaken the community of trust on campus to its core.
The thefts occurred at various locations on campus in the period from Feb. 10 to Mar. 17, according to the Gettysburg College Department of Public Safety. A total of five laptops were stolen.
The first incident occurred on Feb. 10 in Bream Gym. A student said that his laptop was stolen from the second floor men’s locker room between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. The laptop had been left unattended. The laptop stolen from Bream Gym has been recovered, and the responsible person has been identified. According to DPS, the person identified was a Gettysburg student who is being dealt with through the college’s judicial process. Since criminal charges were not filed, the name of this student is not public information.
The next three thefts occurred in Musselman Library in the evening hours of March 3. In all cases the laptops had been left unsecured and unattended at the time that they were stolen. No suspects have been identified in this case. DPS declined to comment on the status of the investigation into these thefts, citing the fact that this is still an active DPS investigation.
Most recently, in the evening on March 17 a laptop was reported stolen from an unsecured vehicle parked outside the College Union Building. DPS said that investigation into this theft is ongoing and that a responsible party has not yet been identified but did comment that they do not believe there is any connection between this incident and the library thefts on March 3.
These thefts follow a series of thefts between Oct. 2014 and Dec. 2015 involving items including a ring, pendant, bracelet, a television, camera equipment, gaming equipment and games that were stolen from residential facilities and over 100 DVDs that were stolen from Musselman Library. The two employees believed to be responsible for a majority of these thefts are no longer employed by the College.
Executive Director of Public Safety William Lafferty said in an email to the Gettysburgian that some, but not all, of these recent thefts were reported to the Borough police department, which is conducting its own investigation into the matter. Lafferty said the decision of whether or not to report the incident to Borough police was solely up to the student, and in many cases the student opted not to report. Lafferty also said, “Laptop thefts are crimes of opportunity, and in nearly all cases the laptops were left unsecured and unattended.”
Lafferty told the Gettysburgian that DPS has stepped up patrols of common spaces where students gather and study and has communicated with employees of those areas to be vigilant and report concerns immediately. He also offered several tips to help students reduce the likelihood of theft.
First and foremost, do not leave personal items of value in unattended or unsecured offices or spaces. Students should take items with them or ask a trusted friend/colleague to watch over the items.
Second, students should lock their devices in a safe place when not in use or use a cable lock that wraps around a desk or chair leg. Lafferty also suggested applying distinctive paint markings (such as indelible markers) or engravings to one’s laptop to make it unique and easily identifiable. When it comes to recovering stolen property, comparing serial numbers may be the only way for police to positively identify a computer, so it is essential to have a list of serial numbers of high-value property that is maintained separate from the equipment.
Additionally, Lafferty urged students to be aware that if their computer is stolen, automatic log-ins can make it easy for a thief to access information or send inappropriate messages with their account. Students should use password protection and require a person to log in every time the computer goes to sleep or powers down.
Lafferty said that community members should report anything that seems out of place or suspicious immediately to DPS at 717-337-6911 or to the police at 9-1-1 as this could aid in the identification of the person(s) responsible. “If you see something, say something,” he said.