Occasional laptop thefts are an unfortunate fact of life at Tech, but when several faculty and staff at the College of Computing (CoC) showed up one morning to find expensive electronic items missing, they along with police decided this was likely no coincidence.
On the morning of Feb. 7, faculty and staff in the CoC found that a number of offices had been searched and entered, resulting in over $10,000 in stolen property. No suspects have been named as of yet.
As the day progressed, the Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) received five different incident reports varying from stolen computers and cameras to evidence of forced entry.
Officer Grant Hawkins of the GTPD explained that when police asked to review the tapes from the building’s video surveillance system, they found nothing had been recorded.
“The camera system was damaged during a lightning storm and was not working at the time of the incident. The tapes that were pulled showed nothing,” Hawkins said.
Bill Leahy, a lecturer at the CoC, noticed at approximately 10 a.m. that a tablet PC and other computer equipment had been taken from his office. The equipment, which is valued at $2,765, belonged to the Institute.
“All the incidents were the same. Either they used a key or it was a magician. There was no forced entry and the door was locked,” Leahy said.
Monica Sweat, also a lecturer at the CoC, found that $4,950 worth of laptop computers and digital cameras belonging to the Institute were taken from her office. According to the incident report she filed, the only people with access to her office were facilities employees, a teaching assistant, and herself.
Thomas Pilsch, assistant dean of students at the CoC, reported that a Scribble robot used for CS 1301 had been moved in his office.
“I noticed the carrying case was moved from its normal spot to a lower position [on the book shelf] when I arrived that morning. The Scribble was still there. I didn’t think too much of it until I learned of the other losses. Nothing else was disturbed,” Pilsch said.
All five people who filed a report with the police stated that they had locked their doors the night before. Only one report indicated that there were signs of forced entry.
“The timeframe of when the incidents were reported overlaps so we think it was one isolated incident. We are checking other buildings more frequently now…and so far this hasn’t been a trend. It seems like an isolated event but we are treating it as something that could happen again,” Hawkins said.
According to Hawkins, the GTPD is following up on leads they have received as the case continues to be under investigation. The GTPD is increasing patrol of the building and the surrounding area to help prevent future incidents. They have also increased the number of building checks performed in the evenings of the CoC.
“As one of our primary focuses we will now look at that building more closely for anything suspicious,” Hawkins said.
The College has also taken additional steps to ensure the building is secure. It has contracted a private security company to offer additional surveillance. A security guard will monitor the building each day from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
“They are also re-keying a lot of the locks and upgrading their camera system to make sure it’s fully operable for the future,” Hawkins said.
GTPD is working with faculty and staff who have offices in the CoC on preventive measures they can follow to secure the valuable equipment stored throughout the building.
“It seems like common sense, but sometimes you forget. We want to make sure we reiterate the importance of locking doors, securing valuables, such as computers and projectors, and locking drawers,” Hawkins said.