This semester, nearly 15 computers have been stolen from staff and faculty offices throughout campus, along with some labs.
That number is already double that from last semester, and according to Temple’s Risk Management and Insurance office, has totaled around $40,000 in monetary losses.
Charles Leone, Deputy Director of Campus Safety Services, was quick to note information involved was priceless, though Risk Management and Insurance was quick to note that the number wasn’t that extraordinary for a campus this size.
Nearly all of the thefts have been the CPU, or hard drive, with a few including monitors, printers and keyboards. What Leone found to be interesting was that many of the computers were hardly top of the line models.
Police believe many of the computers were taken for pawning with few being kept in possession by the thieves.
According to Lucira Technologies, a recovery software company, most computers are stolen and then sold.
Temple police have made only one arrest, which was for a computer theft last semester. Fingerprints at the scene of the crime identified the suspect and police believe the male was involved in at least one other theft last semester. The man had a previous relationship with the university, Leone said.
Another male was arrested in Paley Library for trespassing. The man possessed wire cutters at the time of his arrest, leading police to believe he may have been involved with previous thefts as well.
This semester has not been as fruitful for the police. They have talked to a number of people but no charges or arrests have been made. One hindrance they do have is that they believe many of the people involved are not a part of Temple’s campus.
The video surveillance in place has offered little clues and few leads, and patterns are not showing up in many of the thefts that have occurred.
A majority of the thefts did not involve forced entry or cut wires and most happened during weekday business hours.
Leone said he was not exactly sure how the computers were getting out of the building, but noted the increased presence of luggage on wheels as an option. Also, a majority of the thefts have taken place in Ritter Hall and he said it was possible to exit that building without passing anyone in security.
Speakman and Anderson halls have also seen large numbers of computer thefts.
As a way to combat the computer thefts, police have circulated a tip memo to faculty and staff asking them to lock their office doors whenever they are away, “even if it’s just for a minute.” Also, as a way to keep any kind of fraud from occurring, the memo asks all faculty and staff to ask for ID from service people before allowing them to do work or remove the hardware.
More external methods of prevention are in the works. These include larger gauge cable for those computers on lock down, increased camera surveillance on 13th street and plain clothed officers in the buildings hit the worst.
For laptops, which are the easiest steal and the hardest to lock down, a high decibel alarm system is being looked into. When the computer is moved, the system emits a high pitched sound to alert those nearby.
Other methods include recovering the computer after its theft. This is done using a trace and recovery program, which is installed on the computer. One such company that the school has been looking at is Lucira Technologies.
The company sells software, which is currently only available for Windows compatible machines, that is installed “in a manner that is virtually undetectable.” Each time the computer logs on to the Internet, the program contacts the Lucira Security Central’ with the computer’s information.
If the owner has reported the computer stolen, the program then sends its location information to the company and they e-mail the owner letting them know it has been found. If the owner wants, the company will send the location information to local crime authorities.
The only problem with this system of recovery is that the software, which can not be uninstalled by anyone but the owner, can be deleted if the computer is reformatted. A technician at Lucira Technologies said this is a possibility, but it is also time consuming because to make it ready for sale, programs would need reinstallation.
The company is currently working on a recovery program that could resist formatting. A prototype they had proved to be unstable. The company is also planning a version of their software for the MacOS and Linux.