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Laptop Thefts Double in April

By Amy Friedman, Crimson Staff Writer

The month of April has already seen twice as many laptop thefts on campus as the previous month, an uptick driven especially by thefts from residence halls and undergraduate classroom buildings.

Harvard University Police Department logs indicate that 14 laptops have been stolen in April as of Sunday. Eight of the computers were taken from Houses—four from Quincy, three from Winthrop, and one from Lowell—and others were stolen from Boylston Hall, William James Hall, the Advocate, the Holyoke Center, and the Center for Astrophysics.

In March, HUPD recorded seven laptop thefts, all from locations less regularly frequented by undergraduates. Four of last month’s thefts were reported in Gund Hall, where the Graduate School of Design holds classes, and the others occurred in Cruft Laboratory, Paine Hall, and the Law School’s Wasserstein Hall.

HUPD posts its logs only from the past 60 days, the minimum period required by law, and HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano declined to provide older data.

Students and administrators have voiced concerns within their Houses at what they perceive as an increase in laptop theft.

Quincy House Resident Dean Judith F. Chapman sent an email to House residents last week informing students of recent thefts in the House.

The email said that three laptops, two backpacks, and two gaming systems were taken from a single suite in New Quincy during one night and a laptop and purse had been taken from the dining hall.

“These two incidents of theft are upsetting, and they erode trust and community—two values I hold dear,” Chapman wrote.

In an email to fellow Quincy House residents on Sunday, Melanie J. Comeau ’13 described “a group of four male youths...probably non-Harvard Cambridge teens” whom she said several residents had seen playing pool and spending hours in the dining hall. She said in her email that she believed them responsible for the thefts but declined to comment to The Crimson on her justification for the accusation.

According to HUPD logs, three of the cases of stolen laptops reported in April are closed, which Catalano said means that either a suspect has been identified or all leads have been exhausted. He added that officers are investigating the possibility that the remaining thefts are related to each other.

Three Winthrop residents reported that their laptops were stolen from their common room while they slept.

“Our door has a tendency to stick when you close it; it doesn’t close all the way,” said Leslie N. Kim ’12, one of the residents of Winthrop whose computer was stolen.

“We got in the habit of just leaving it open if someone else was home,” Kim said, adding that many students leave a hanger on their doorknobs or otherwise prop open their doors even if they have working locks so that they can easily access their suites.

“We figured it was a lot simpler to leave it open. We’d just gotten very careless,” Kim said, “I guess we didn’t check that night before going to bed if it was closed.”

Joshua R. Garcia ’13 said his laptop was stolen from his Lowell House room last Saturday night.

He had left the door to his bedroom open to “create a cross breeze” during a small party in his room. Although he knew most of the guests at the party, he wrote off a few unfamiliar faces as prefrosh.

When he went into his room after the party, his laptop was gone.

In her email, Chapman cautioned students to monitor who follows them into the House when they flash their IDs to enter the locked building.

But students acknowledged that her advice can be uncomfortable to follow.

“It’s sort of hard when [you think you’re] going to seem paranoid,” Kim said about questioning piggybackers before allowing them in. “It’s usually a good idea to be better safe than sorry.”

—Staff writer Amy Q. Friedman can be reached at afriedman@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: April 24

An earlier version of this article stated that Melanie J. Comeau ’13 wrote in an email to Quincy House residents that she had seen four young men whom she believed to be responsible for recent thefts of laptops from Quincy playing pool and sitting in the dining hall in the House. In fact, although Comeau wrote in her email, “I am quite positive I know who is responsible for at least two thefts,” she wrote that she had spoken to many people who had seen the four young men, not that she had seen them herself.

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CrimeCollegeOn CampusStudent LifeWinthropLowellQuincy