Students can S.T.O.P. laptop theft with campus program

Morgan Marx

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It could happen any time, any day.

The second floor of the Matador Bookstore Complex was quiet.  A few summer semester students were gathered, talking with friends.  Jennifer Jimenez, a freshman, psychology major, placed her lunch and book bag at a table.  She then walked away, across the room, to grab some paper towels from the bathroom.

Her laptop sat on the table, unattended and unlocked.

“Sometimes I worry about my possessions,” said Jimenez, 18.  “That’s why I ran back to my table.”

Campus theft is a problem in schools nationwide.  Electronic devices such as laptop computers, MP3 players and other portable devices are popular targets for theft, according to CSUN’s Department of Police Services.

According to the 2008 Clery Campus Crime Statistics Report, 139 incidents of burglary and 690 incidents of theft were reported at CSUN between 2006 and 2008.  To fight such numbers, CSUN adopted the S.T.O.P. program (Security Tracking of Office Property) in 2006, said Christina Villalobos, Public Information Officer for the Department of Police Services.

“The purpose of S.T.O.P. is twofold,” Villalobos said.  “One, to decrease the chance of someone becoming a victim of theft and two, to help recover stolen property.”

In the S.T.O.P. program, a metal security tag is affixed to a person’s electronic device.  The tag bears a unique bar code that is registered with the Department of Police Services.  If the tag is tampered with or removed, a chemically bonded mark reading “Stolen Property” will be left on the device along with a telephone number to call to report a crime.

“The reason people steal laptops is not to use them, but to make money,” Villalobos said.  “It’s hard to resell a laptop that has been tampered with.”

The program costs a one-time fee of $10 and is available for both state and personal property.  It is open to CSUN students and faculty, as well as family and other members of the community, Villalobos said.  Property is protected for the lifetime of the device, even after graduation.  The tracking information is kept in a national database, so if a device is lost in transit nationwide, there is a good chance it will be recovered, Villalobos said.

Upgrades, including a lock and carrying case, can be purchased through the S.T.O.P website and additional computer security devices are sold at the Matador Bookstore.

Brain Osborn, Matador Bookstore employee and CSUN graduate said he likes the S.T.O.P. program.

“I’ll tell buyers about the campus security program,” Osborn said.  “It’s better because they can register their device with campus police.”

Letting students, faculty and staff know about the S.T.O.P. program is important to the Department of Police Services.  Over 30 events were held between May 2009 and March 2010 to explain the program, said Villalobos.  To date, over 740 people have taken advantage of the system and a special emphasis is placed on incoming CSUN students.

“On Fall 2009 move-in day we sold 120 plates just in campus housing,” Villalobos said.

Christine Tran, a junior business and marketing major, said she worries about leaving her laptop behind or someone taking it on campus.  To date, she said she had not taken steps to protect her device.

“I’d be interested in the S.T.O.P. program,” said Tran, 20, “but I didn’t know about it.”

The Department of Police Services views campus theft as a preventable crime.  The S.T.O.P. program is one step in ensuring the safety of personal items.  Additionally, the police services website presents tips on how to ensure campus safety.

“You can prevent campus theft 100 percent of the time,” Villalobos said.  “Don’t leave your items unattended or your equipment unlocked.”

Students interested in the S.T.O.P. program can call (818) 677-7922 or view a product flier.
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