UTPD warns against theft, encourages students to protect valuables

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A student studying in the SAC leaves their computer unattended Thursday afternoon. This act, which happens throughout the campus, occasionally leads to theft of students' belongings.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

Trust may be a virtue, but unfortunately it’s often an important factor leading to campus theft, said UT Police Department officer Darrell Halstead.

Students reported 121 thefts in the Perry-Castaneda Library from 2009 to 2011, making it the top location for property theft on campus, said crime analyst Roxanne Hodgins.

Gregory Gym, with 115 reported stolen items, and the Jester Center, with 112, were the second and third most popular locations for thieves on campus.

“Trust is a virtue that thieves want you to have,” Halstead said. “If you leave your stuff unattended on campus, it will get stolen.”

Halstead said students file stolen property reports on a daily basis.

“There are one or two days in a year when we do not file a report for a stolen item,” Halstead said. “The reports are almost constant.”

Halstead said students can protect their belongings by getting their valuables, like laptops and other electronics engraved and by registering any items that have serial numbers in the UTPD Property Registration system. Halstead said officers are not allowed to open a laptop, even if they believe it may have been stolen. He said that engraving a laptop with your name or registering it in a database allows officers to identify it as stolen.

“Thieves are banking on the fact that you do not have your belongings registered,” Halstead said. “When you enter your items into a registry, UTPD catches thieves.”

Halstead said representatives of UTPD frequently hold sessions outside of the PCL, dormitories and other University facilities where they offer free engraving and help students register their belongings. However, students are often uninterested or do not have the time to stop, said Halstead.

Plan II freshman Randy Olmsted said losing his backpack last semester has made him more conscientious with his belongings.

“I had to suffer through finals last semester without any of my notes,” Olmsted said. “At the time I was more worried about the inconvenience than the actual cost of replacing my laptop.”

He said someone returned his backpack halfway through winter break, but he does not think people are generally able to recover their lost possessions.

“When your things disappear because you leave them unattended, you are probably not going to get them back,” Olmsted said.

He said he was surprised by how helpful UTPD was when he reported his backpack stolen.

“I was not sure where I had left my backpack at first,” he said. “But the police looked over security camera footage with me, and we found the exact building where I had left it. They had footage of me walking in with my backpack and walking out without it.”

Olmsted said that as soon as he got his laptop back he had it engraved by UTPD officials. He said he frequently sees students leave their belongings in the library or dorms and he thinks his experience has made him more aware of the consequences of being irresponsible with valuables. 

Printed on Friday, February 24, 2012 as: UTPD warns against theft of valuables