Keep One Eye Open
Theft on the Rise in Library
October 14, 2003 1:53 AM
Maurice Davis had been studying in a secluded area on the third floor of the library before going to his afternoon class last week. The outdated laptop Davis owned was old and heavy and he didn’t feel like lugging it around with him all day. Since Davis hadn’t seen anyone near him, he thought it would be safe to leave his laptop alone for a few hours.
He was wrong.
When Davis returned to the library after class he found that his laptop had been stolen.
“It surprised me,” said Davis, an SF State biology major. “I really thought it would be safe.”
The theft of Davis’ laptop is just one in a number of thefts that have taken place in the library this semester. Students lulled into a false sense of security while studying are discovering their wallets, backpacks and purses missing.
“We’ve had cases of people sleeping in the library who have woken up to find their stuff missing. Cases where people wearing backpacks that were partially open having stuff stolen out of it as they were walking,” said Matt Blevin, building coordinator for the library.
“People are very trusting at the library. That’s not wisest thing to be.”
According to campus police, thieves are looking for targets of opportunity. They will patrol the library casing out the study areas for unattended backpacks, computers or purses. In one case, a student left for the bathroom and came back to find her purse missing. Although she had been sitting in a crowded area in the periodicals/microforms department of the library, no one around her had realized she was being robbed. Witnesses said a man sat down for a few seconds at the woman’s spot with a dictionary and then left.
“The library is a big target for thieves,” said Dave Waldron, supervisor of the periodicals/microforms department, which is one of the hardest hit areas of the library. “It’s a large place and it’s easy to disappear.”
Waldron said that fall semesters usually have more thefts than spring or summer semesters. Although he does not know why this is, Waldron suspects that it might have to do with the influx of new students every fall, many who do not yet know the dangers in the library.
Reflecting on the recent thefts, campus police find themselves frustrated because many of the crimes are going unreported by students. Although all of the library staff interviewed for this article said that there have been a large amount of thefts this semester, only five have been reported to the campus police.
According to campus police, students’ reluctance to report these crimes hampers investigations into the matter. “The most important thing for people to do is to report the thefts. That way we’ll be able to see if there is a trend,” said Sergeant Jennifer Schwartz.
However, many students feel that reporting the thefts are merely a waste of time. “Students are busy, and the police have other priorities they have to deal with before taking theft reports,” said Blevin about student reluctance to report the crimes. “Students don’t have time to wait.”
Campus police are trying to combat the problem by patrolling the library daily and leaving notes on unattended backpacks warning students, “take your valuables with you.”
Despite the warnings, students are still leaving their valuables unattended.
Casey Mills, a SF State student who works in the periodicals department, often sees backpacks and purses on tables and chairs with no one around them. Mills and other library staff have been told to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity and report anything they find unusual. Mills once observed a middle-aged man peaking over cabinets and through bookshelves at tables that might have unattended backpacks.
Although some library staff talked to for this story admitted they had seen suspicious activity, the police still do not have a suspect or know if the thefts are the work of one individual or several.
“People are too trusting,” said Mills, who tries to warn students about the dangers. “They feel they are coming to a safe place. They’re wrong.”
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