Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Security footage unavailable in Union theft

Published: December 9, 2011
Section: Front Page

Treasurer Daniel Lee ’12 noticed more than $600 was missing from the Student Union safe last month. Now a lack of urgency in communication among Union officers, university officials and employees at a private security firm that monitors the Union’s video camera surveillance footage leaves a multitude of questions with few answers.

Lee noticed the money missing from the Student Union safe last month but couldn’t find the incident on security camera footage because it was automatically programmed to delete tape after four days, he said in an interview Thursday.

Only 11 people, including assistant treasurers, have access to the safe. The most likely scenario for the theft is that one of them accidentally left the safe open, then someone saw that and stole the money, Lee said.

“The last thing I expected was for someone to come in and steal from the Union,” Lee said. “If you know that there’s a camera and you’re being watched, why would you take the money?”

Unable to recall the exact date, Lee said that on a Wednesday in November he came into the office and found the Union safe open but assumed that someone had forgotten to close it, not that money had been stolen.

When counting deposited money with Budget Analyst Steve Costa the following day, they observed that a cash deposit in a plastic bag was missing about $620 of the $1,200 deposit amount listed in the book, Lee said. On Nov. 21, Lee filed a report with university police.

The security camera on the ceiling of the Union office is managed by a firm called CGL Electronic Security. The firm sent a manual to Lee and a technician assisted him in retrieving the footage but, because Lee and Union officials did not watch the tape within four days, they could not find the incident.

O’Neil sent a follow up e-mail to Lee on Tuesday, explaining that staff at CGL were out of the office on Nov. 21, the day the incident was reported to university police, and unable to show the Union how to retrieve the video footage. In the e-mail, she asked if Lee had watched the video, but in a phone interview Thursday morning, said she had not yet received a response from him.

Along with a new lock combination, the camera setting has now been changed to record and store footage for one month. Lee said he heard from other treasurers that the storage time was two weeks and not only four days.

Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan said that the case appeared to be a theft, not a bookkeeping or organizational error.

“As far as book keeping measures, I’m sure that they went through a … methodical process,” Callahan said in an interview. “I would hope that would be the case that it [the money] was misplaced but nothing indicates that this time.”