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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Thefts from locked offices raise security concerns

Published: January 24, 2014
Section: News, Top Stories

Two Nikon camera bodies, four lenses, a camera bag and other related equipment were reported stolen from the Brandeis Media Coalition room last Sunday by the head staff of The Brandeis Hoot. Hoot editorial staff met with Detective Sergeant Dana Kelley the following Tuesday to discuss the incident. The meeting came very soon after a similar one, called to discuss the theft of two Macbook Pro computers from the Archon office this past November. It is thought that the camera theft occurred sometime between finals week of the Fall 2013 semester and the first week of the Spring 2014 semester.

A significant problem in both cases is the lack of ability to track stolen devices. “Unfortunately, there is really no way to track down a camera,” Hoot Editor-in-Chief Emily Stott ’14 said. It’s the same in the case of the Archon theft: “[Public safety] can only inform us if the laptops were used within the Brandeis network,” wrote Archon’s Editor-in-Chief Evelyn Wiyanto ’14. Both the BMC room and the Archon office’s card readers only open to people on listservs for the clubs housed in the rooms, but as the BMC is home to Gravity Magazine, Where the Children Play and other clubs; this includes over 50 people.

In an email to The Hoot, head of Brandeis Public Safety Edward Callahan said while the first determination in the investigation related to card reader access, that Public Safety is focusing on a larger problem. “It was discovered that on numerous occasions the access doors were in the held open position, which could have possibly given access to anyone who is not supposed to be within the areas in question,” Callahan said.

While Stott agrees that the cameras could have been secured in a lock box or safe of some sort, she said, “If someone wants to take something, they will find a way to do it.” Wiyanto, however, is more critical. “No, I’m not satisfied by their response,” she said. “The university should install cameras, especially in offices where there are valuables such as computers, cameras, artwork, etc.” Stott agrees that Brandeis “could do more” by installing cameras, “particularly the smaller hallways of the SCC,” as well as rooms containing expensive equipment.

The sentiment echoes in other recent larceny cases, such as the string of catalytic converters stolen from cars in Brandeis parking lots and around Waltham. “[Campus police] said that there just wasn’t enough surveillance footage,” said Andrew Kouides ’16. “I definitely think that’s something Brandeis could address.” The issue of theft from hidden corners of campus also relates to February 2013 reports of students’ computers stolen from the lower levels of Goldfarb library.

This is not to say that the university has left students to their own devices. After the aforementioned library thefts and similar incidents, Public Safety promised to increase patrols in the library and work with Library Technical Services to abate the problem. The patrols did indeed increase in the later hours of the day, and students returning from this year’s winter break were greeted with small, bright yellow signs decorating the library, warning students against leaving property unattended.

At the moment it is unknown if a more comprehensive security camera system would be considered by the university, at least until theft is not officially considered an increasing issue. “Theft is a concern on any campus,” says Callahan, “and [it] may be prevented by securing property and reporting any suspicious incidents to the university police.” Of course, it is also up to students to “be more conscious of who they are letting into buildings or rooms,” as Stott put it, to continue to make the Brandeis a safe place.