The Collegian
Wednesday, October 04, 2023

After recent library thefts, students warned about leaving belongings unattended

Staff members at Boatwright Memorial Library are encouraging students to not leave their belongings unattended after two laptop computers were reported stolen from there on Feb. 18.

Junior Halley Brangs and Krista Edelman, a Virginia Commonwealth University medical student, reported their Macintosh laptop computers stolen after they left their belongings unattended between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

"Students are very trusting," university police chief Bob Dillard said. "That's what gets them in trouble."

Brangs had been sitting in a cubicle in the back of the first floor when she decided not to bring her belongings with her, including her $2,800 black Macintosh laptop. She was headed to an MCAT prep class at the Heilman Dining Center.

"I had tried [to leave my belongings unattended] less," Brangs said. "But I still did it the same amount. I was in a rush."

Edelman left her $1,500, white Macintosh laptop computer unattended on the second floor of the library while she did research on the first floor, according to a police report.

The laptop computers were the only items stolen from Brangs and Edelman. Their bags and wallets were left untouched.

Timothy Mihalcoe, the university police investigator assigned to the theft, is reviewing video he obtained from the library to find a suspect. He's also using the department's tools for locating stolen laptops.

There aren't any suspects yet, but the cases will remain open for at least 30 days, Dillard said. Although active investigation of the case will end after 30 days, the laptop computers' serial numbers will be entered into a national database, and if the serial numbers show up on a network, the stolen laptop can be traced.

"Last year we had a stolen laptop show up in New York a few months after it was stolen," Dillard said.

In the mean time, the library staff and administrators are doing what they can to make students aware that theft occurs.

Fliers that read, "Did you leave your stuff unattended? Theft happens ... even in Boatwright," have been hanging in the stalls of the bathrooms and on doors around the library. And staff walk around the library in search of valuable items left unattended. They place a sticky note on the item that reads: "I could have stolen your stuff, but I didn't. Theft is a reality. Please protect your belongings."

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University librarian Jim Rettig said he hoped these notices would encourage students to think twice before they leave something unattended.

"That's up to the students," Rettig said. "It is sad when someone comes up to the desk to report that something like their laptop is missing."

Senior Dan Berger said seeing the signs did not make him worried about thefts.

"I always feel safe in the library," Berger said. "I probably wouldn't leave my laptop out, but I always leave my backpack and books out when I am not around."

Brangs said seeing the notices was bittersweet.

"I saw them in the stalls, and it kind of sucked when I didn't have my laptop," Brangs said. "But it is a good idea. Don't leave your stuff because things happen."

Fortunately for Brangs, her homeowners insurance covered all but $250 for the purchase of a new black Macintosh laptop computer. She said she was planning not to let this laptop out of her sight.

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