The Department of Public Safety is launching a new program in an effort to track down stolen laptops. Anyone associated with the University who has a uniqname is now eligible to register their computer or other valuable electronics — like an iPod or Xbox — on the DPS website.
DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said the aim of the program is to address the relatively frequent problem of laptop thefts. There were 113 such incidents in 2008, and 88 so far in 2009. The Hatcher Graduate Library had the highest concentration of laptop thefts over this period, according to Brown.
“Laptop thefts have been becoming an increasing challenge as people leave them unattended,” she said.
According to Brown, between 100 and 120 devices have been registered thus far.
Individuals interested in registering their laptops provide DPS with their names and contact information, as well as the make, model and serial number of their laptops.
In turn, DPS sends them two stickers. The first is a large blue sticker to be placed on the front of the computer that states that the machine is registered property. The second is a small sticker with a bar code that lists the DPS identification number.
Brown said the identification sticker will be very useful in tracking down stolen laptops.
“That particular sticker is manufactured in such a way that when you try to remove it, it will leave a residue,” she said. “So the theory is that this should deter some laptop thefts because it will be a little more difficult, we hope, for them to pawn them.”
Though DPS is implementing the plan, the original idea came from the Michigan Student Assembly’s Campus Safety Commission.
“We started a program two and a half years ago to have laptop locks, available for rent, at the UGLi and Duderstadt Center,” said Bret Chaness, former chairman of the Campus Safety Commission.
Chaness added that having locks for rent resulted in a 50-percent decrease in laptop thefts. He said the Campus Safety Commission felt there was still room for improvement and began to advocate for an even more effective program.
During winter term last year the commission met with Chief of Police Kenneth Magee, as well as other DPS officers, to come up with a way to protect students’ laptops throughout campus, Chaness said.
Though many plans were considered, Chaness said the sticker registration plan was ultimately chosen because it was efficient and the most cost effective.
“It costs 50 cents per registration, and that protects a $1,000 laptop,” he said.
While the goal of the program is to cut down on laptop theft, Brown said ultimately it is the laptop owners who are responsible for their computers. She added that the best ways to ensure the safety of a laptop is never leaving it unattended in public, labeling the computer and accessories and password protecting it.
Still, Chaness said he believes the laptop registration program will be a deterrent to thieves and help improve, at least in part, the security of laptops across campus.
“Thieves will see the sticker in the library,” he said, “And they will go away.”