Feb 272006
Authors: James Baetke, Vimal Patel

In light of a recent spate of computer thefts, the Collegian decided to test just how easy stealing CSU equipment could be late at night.

The conclusion: stealing campus computers could be easy.

Though the thefts may have been an inside job – officials said that about 50,000 keys have been issued – it also could have been just about anybody who walked onto campus. Several doors were left unlocked over at least one night last week.

In just 90 minutes, two Collegian reporters penetrated the outer walls of four campus buildings, opened the doors to two science labs, one professor's office, several lecture halls, and ultimately had easy access to at least eight computers.

In the entire journey, from midnight to 1:30 a.m. Thursday, no CSU Police Department officers were encountered.

Doors to the Clark building, Rockwell Hall and the chemistry building, which is linked to the Yates Building, were left open.

In recent weeks, several computers and monitors have been reported missing from various campus buildings. In recent months, two thefts of computers from the A wing of Clark and Rockwell Hall were reported totaling nearly $15,000, according to police reports.

The facilities department locks the outer doors to buildings, but it's the responsibility of individuals to lock their own offices, said Jeff Sutton , the department's building service manager.

However, just because the department locks the buildings doesn't mean they remain locked throughout the night. There are 50,000 keys issued to authorized individuals, said Janet Vigil, facilities custodial manager.

"The issue is that the buildings need to be accessed by the occupants and the users," Sutton said. "We can lock the building, but within minutes the doors can be unlocked by authorized people."

In addition to accessing the office room, two labs in the chemistry building were opened by reporters at about 1 a.m.

Both labs had various pieces of science equipment such as scales and beakers. One lab, room 301 in Yates, had six Gateway e-series computers and six monitors.

Several lecture halls were accessed. No computers were visible, but all lecture halls had video equipment such as a Samsung video presenter and Panasonic 4-head VCR.

The open office was in the C-wing of Clark, and had a personal computer, wrapped gifts and other belongings.

A copy room containing a fax machine and two large-scale Xerox copiers was also accessed in the chemistry building.

Cpl. Yvonne Paez , CSUPD spokeswoman, said police officers constantly patrol the campus to ensure the "safety of people and property."

"We are out there on patrol 24/7," Paez said. "If through our checking we find something unsecure, we will secure it. … We cannot put our hand on every single door on campus."

Chris Rithner, director of administrative services with the chemistry department, said the department is well aware of the increased thefts on campus, but that measures are taken to keep property secure.

"When you leave any area you are instructed to lock the doors," Rithner said. "All the labs are kept under lock and key."

A database is kept up-to-date on all chemistry faculty members who carry any keys relating to their department, Rithner said.

"It is very difficult to tell who a perp is," he added. "They can just fir in with the rest of us crazies on campus."

Rockwell Hall, home to the College of Business, was also open. Although these reporters roamed freely, all the offices checked were secure.

In November, a 60-inch plasma TV was stolen from the hall.

James Baetke and Vimal Patel can be reached at campus@collegian.com.

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