$60,000 theft prompts new Campus Security measures

Multi-person computer theft would have required ‘a great deal of planning’

Sixty-two computers, worth about $60,000 in total, were stolen from Jeffery Hall early in the morning of Dec. 27.
Sixty-two computers, worth about $60,000 in total, were stolen from Jeffery Hall early in the morning of Dec. 27.

While most of the Queen’s population was on winter break, an estimated $60,000 worth of computers was stolen from Jeffery Hall.

This was the highest-valued theft from campus since Campus Security started keeping statistics on reported thefts eight years ago, said Campus Security Director Dave Patterson. “It’s now estimated at 62 computers--the estimated value is at $60,000,” he said.

A similar theft occurred in July of last year. Approximately $23,000 of computer equipment was stolen from the same building. In this case, however, the building was unlocked and only the computer lab door had to be pried open.

“It was the same type of entry into the room,” Patterson said, adding that he can’t speculate as to whether the two thefts were connected.

The thieves entered the Jeffrey Hall doors located across from Mackintosh-Corry Hall on December 27.

Patterson said Campus Security is still unsure of how the thieves actually entered the building before tampering with the door to the computer lab in room 155.

“A variety of break-and-enter tools could be used. We’ve looked at the deficiencies in the locks, [and] put some enhancement on those.” Patterson said he thinks several organized individuals would be involved in a break-in like this, but that he couldn’t speculate as to the exact number.

“It would take a number of individuals to remove that many items out of the building,” said Patterson. “It’s not a smash-and-grab type; it would be something that would require a great deal of planning.”

Patterson said he suspects the thieves must have used a truck to transport the computers. “It’s not something where they would be moving on foot,” he said. “[They needed] something to transport them off campus quite quickly.”

Patterson said a campus security patrol discovered the break-in at 4 a.m.

The building had been locked and secured for the break, Patterson said, the University having been closed since Dec. 22. Campus Security continued to patrol however, and added an extra foot patrol during the day over the winter break.

Theft has prompted upgrades to the building’s security.

“We’ve been looking at deficiencies in that area and we’ve now installed intrusion detection in that area and are looking into overt marking on the computers, to make them less desirable on the street,” Patterson said. “An intrusion alarm system secures the room, the perimeter of the room so if someone enters the room who isn’t supposed to be there, it sends an alarm to Campus Security and we’re able to respond.”

Campus Security has made efforts to retrieve the computers, Patterson said.

“On our website we’ve posted all the serial numbers, so if you were to do a web search for that particular serial number, it would link back to a theft that occurred on our property and would have the serial number.”

Patterson said it’s likely the equipment would have been transported and resold elsewhere.

“This is something where it’d be removed off campus and then sold, etc. in Kingston or even outside of Kingston, or even outside of the province,” he said.

Patterson said the campus’ relatively trusting or open nature, although positive, can also leave it vulnerable to theft.

Patterson said students shouldn’t hesitate to press one of the blue light buttons located around campus to report any thefts or suspicious activity.

Sergeant Neil Finn, who’s in charge of media relations for the Kingston Police Force, said there is a black market for any stolen merchandise, not necessarily just computers.

“This large a theft, obviously there is a market for that someplace,” he said.

Finn said the investigation for this case is being treated as an individual occurrence.

“The investigator said he hasn’t looked at that other case,” Finn said, adding that cases are assigned on a daily basis to officers working at the time.

Finn said the thieves were able to enter the building by removing the screws to the door.

No witnesses have come forward.

Jim Lesslie, IT services manager of support services, said a theft of this type means a lot of extra work for IT services. “The implications have been mostly financial so far,” he said. “Classes have really not had to be cancelled yet. It just happens that not too many classes are planned the first week in these labs.”

Lesslie said the computers in the lab will have to be completely replaced.

“It would be really good if we could get the same computers. But because of the way computer companies work, we can no longer get the same components, but no one will be able to tell the difference.” Lesslie said the recent theft combined with the theft in July has led IT services to re-evaluate its security across campus.

“We are reviewing security in all of the labs we’re responsible for,” he said, adding that he hopes this review will identify any weaknesses in security so thefts can be prevented.

“Putting in security boxes after the fact, it was unfortunately what we ended up doing this time,” Lesslie said, referring to the intrusion detection system which has been installed.

As of yesterday, IT services had already received the majority of replacement parts needed.

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