Thieves have stolen three laptops from the University Library in the week starting 29 September. One of the victims considers the university to be jointly liable. Should the EUR do more to prevent theft?
History repeats itself. Five laptops were stolen in the UL in only one week too, in June 2012. But UL staff and the security guards say that nothing more has been stolen since that time – that is, not until the beginning of this month, when three laptops disappeared in only a few days during the week starting 29 September.
There are always employees walking about in the UL whose job it is to keep order and to ensure students’ safety. In the evenings, an extra security guard joins them. According to Ineke van der Kramer, head of the Library Learning Center, these guards in any case keep a close eye on any personal belongings left unattended: “And they also tell students that it’s unsafe to leave their laptops lying about,” she adds. But due to the recent thefts, the guards have been instructed to be even more on the alert and special notices appear on the screens to warn students against the possibility of theft.
According to Van der Kramer, warning people and monitoring is all the library can do. Still, one of the students whose laptop was stolen has filed a complaint to the security department. This is not so much because of the theft itself, but because the victim claims that the university is jointly liable. Security chief Jelle Jager did not want to give an opinion on this specific case, but he was willing to make a general comment: “Of course, it’s a terrible experience for the person in question, but the university is doing all it can to prevent this kind of situation from arising.” Jager added that security measures can never be absolutely watertight: “There are 15,000 people walking about in the 18 campus buildings every single day, and at least 700 people go to the library on really busy days. We’d need two or three thousand security guards to be able to keep an eye on everyone’s personal belongings the whole time.” Surveillance is carried out too, and there are special lockers for students to use that are permanently CCTV monitored.
If there are all these security cameras on campus, one wonders why these particular thefts have not been recorded on film. The answer is simple: people using the UL reading rooms are not filmed for reasons of privacy. It is not clear whether anyone in particular is suspected, although Van der Kramer is of the opinion – ‘but that’s mainly from hearsay’ – that the culprits come from outside the university. “I really don’t think that students would steal each other’s belongings,” she adds. Jager considers this to be a possibility as well: “There’s an outbreak of thefts on campus every so often, and we’ve heard from other universities that they have similar outbreaks at different times of the year,” he says.
Apparently this type of outbreak usually dies down fairly soon. “If we warn everyone a few times to keep an eye on their things, as otherwise they can disappear like lightning, this puts people on their guard,” he adds. According to him, a new warning will be issued to the whole university again in the very near future.
The thefts in the UL were also discussed during one of the University Council’s committee meetings last week. Chairman René Karens discreetly pointed out that the university had taken out a trial licence on VirtuaLock two years ago. This is software that protects laptops against theft. But the university did not consider it necessary to extend the licence at the time, in spite of the low price. We have discovered that this software can still be used, but that the university no longer pays for it. Students can buy the software themselves for 10 to 20 euros a year. TF