Feb 012007
Authors: James Baetke J. David McSwane, Vimal Patel

The Adminstration Building Wednesday at 9:00pm (Seth Kuddes)


Part 1: Collegian finds campus unlocked

Part 2: Who’s responsible for locking the doors?

Part 3: An electronic cardkey system could alleviate after-hours thefts

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Part 3 of a 3-part series

A Collegian investigation has found campus equipment is in jeopardy of theft because doors that should be locked after hours remain open.

But the problem of after-hours theft will be alleviated in coming years as the university upgrades to an electronic cardkey system, said Brian Chase, director of facilities management.

“It’s been under discussion for the last several years,” he said about the new lock system. “It’s a continuing process…We don’t have a lump of money all at once.”

The university contracted with Software House International last spring to eventually upgrade the entire campus with the new electronic system. It’s unclear if all campus buildings – currently 107 – will be guarded with the system. And the final price tag is unclear as well, but it could be in the millions over several years, Chase said.

Converting each door to the system costs about $5,000, Chase said, and there are thousands of doors on campus.

A committee formed to examine the electronic locks issue adopted the eventual conversion to a cardkey system as a “university standard,” Chase said, and the change will be prioritized on factors such as value of enclosed equipment. For instance, computer labs will be given priority.

Collegian reporters over the course of four nights earlier this month penetrated several campus buildings past midnight and ultimately had access to several high-value TVs, computers, monitors, laptops and chemicals.

Access was gained through unlocked outer doors, and then unlocked doors within buildings. Reporters gained access to the Clark Building, Rockwell Hall, the Chemistry Building, and even the Administration Building, which houses President Larry Penley’s office (all individual offices were secure).

The dilemma faced by campus officials is that buildings and rooms need to be accessed by authorized people there for legitimate reasons.

And compounding the concerns is the massive number of keys out there than can open campus doors. Sandy Sheahan, facilities manager, told the Collegian last year that there are more than 50,000 keys in existence. These include keys currently issued and those reported lost and stolen over at least the last 20 years.

The only way to guard against thieves using stolen keys currently is to change the standard locks. In 2003, CSU received more than $32,000 for an insurance claim after the master keys to the Engineering Building were stolen.

Some advantages of the electronic cardkey system:

-If a key is lost or stolen, it can be deactivated.

-Doors can be automatically shut down at a specific time.

-Officials can program individual keys with specific access and restrictions, allowing cardkeys to work in certain places and in certain times.

-Records can be kept of where and what time doors were accessed.

“A keycard system will allow more people access after hours,” Chase said.

In the last couple years, officials identified that the current lock-and-key system was inconsistent. For instance, some doors automatically lock after they shut, while others do not.

“It was clear that we needed to identify a campus standard for keyless access control technology,” said Scott Baily, associate director of Academic Computing and Networking Services.

Baily was chair of a committee formed to examine the electronic keycard system. The group included representatives from several campus departments, including CSUPD and Facilities Management.

The new computer sciences building is set to be equipped with the new system, and the Clark Building is set to install the upgrade this summer.

Most residence halls already have the technology.

But Facilities Management and ACNS officials stress that theft, which they say is a continual problem, was not the driving force behind the new electronic lock system.

“The main focus of this committee was to select a university campus standard to move forward rather than address specific issues like theft,” Baily said.

And although officials anticipate the new lock system to reduce the number of after-hours thefts, they say getting a grip on the theft problem is going to take diligence on the part of the community.

“It’s not like all the thefts are happening after the buildings are locked down,” Chase said. “(People) need to be aware during the daytime and keep their valuables locked.”

Although Facilities Management locks down all buildings, locking individual rooms such as professor offices is the responsibility of individual faculty and staff. In the course of their janitorial work, maintenance workers will generally secure unlocked doors that they stumble upon and notify the proctor. But ultimately, each professor is responsible for locking his or her own office door.

“You can always do things like prop the door open and that’s going to continue to be a problem,” Baily said. “It provides more control over access but it’s not a complete answer.”

Reporters accessed the Clark building after midnight and found seven professors’ offices unlocked. Most offices included computers.

In response to the Collegian investigation, Chase decided to conduct his own test. He ordered facilities management workers to make sure every door is secure in the evening, and then check them after midnight.

They found that six doors that were secure in the evening were open after midnight.

“This, we believe, was done by occupants coming in after hours who did not take the time to relock the door, left it open for someone else, or didn’t realize the door was left unlocked when they entered,” Chase said.

Just Monday, the facilities department conducted another survey. Again, it found eight doors open or propped ajar.

“We are going to make nightly surveys of exterior doors and report unlocked doors to the proctors,” Chase said, “and if the problem persists we will ask assistance from CSUPD to monitor the doors and stop the persons involved.”

To leave a news tip for Collegian Investigates, call 491-1684 or send it to news@collegian.com.

Collegian staffers James Baetke, J. David McSwane and Vimal Patel can be reached at news@collegian.com.



– Over the course of four nights, Collegian staffers penetrated several buildings on campus, gaining access to not only expensive electronic equipment but also personnel files and potentially dangerous chemicals.

– The unlocked buildings include the Administration, Student Services, Clark and Chemistry buildings, along with both Yates and Rockwell halls.

– CSU paid about $60,000 in insurance deductibles since 2001 resulting from thefts on campus.

– CSU received nearly $275,000 in claim payments since 2001, most of the thefts were stolen equipment, such as computers, cameras and audio/visual material.

– An electronic cardkey system costs CSU about $5,000 per door and has already been implemented on campus, partly to help prevent thefts. There are 107 buildings on campus and thousands of doors.

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