As academic year closes, make personal property a priority

Duke Police offer helpful tips to keep property safe.
April 04, 2011When a student studying in the library runs off to get a coffee, an opportunistic peer snatches up his computer when no one is looking, leaving its owner confused and angry upon his return to an empty table.

This is the premise to “Laptop Gone,” a short film in the 2011 Duke Froshlife film competition. While humorous, it’s a real-life occurrence that the Duke University Police Department wants Duke community members to consider before leaving personal property unattended – especially students who are heading into libraries to prepare for final exams.

“We all want to believe that no one would walk away with our personal belongings, but that’s not the reality,” said Eric Hester, a crime prevention officer with Duke Police. “The best thing students, faculty and staff can do is to never leave valuable property unattended in common areas, libraries or around the office.”

Since the academic year began in August, Duke Police statistics show – on average – at least one computer has been stolen at Duke each week through the end of March.

Kevin Wu, a Duke senior who wrote, directed and produced “Laptop Gone,” said he got the idea for his film from reading weekly crime summaries on the Duke Police website. While he hasn’t been a victim of theft, he said he knew that laptops would often go missing in libraries and wanted to poke fun at how trusting some students can be.

“We may have this notion that if we leave our laptop somewhere and ask people around us to watch it, nothing will ever happen,” Wu said. “But people will get into their studying and not pay attention and when it happens, it’s a crime of opportunity. If people see something they want, they’ll take it.”

Hester said that a decision to pack up personal belongings before going to a restroom or getting a cup of coffee is an action anyone can take to avoid becoming a victim of a crime of opportunity.

“It only takes a matter of seconds to pick up someone’s property and walk away,” Hester said, “so take the extra minute to pack it up and take it with you.”

To protect property, students, faculty and staff can take advantage of a free engraving service provided by Duke Police. In addition to visiting police headquarters at 502 Oregon St., Duke Police will also hold an engraving event from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. April 5 in the Lafe P. and Rita D. Fox Student Center in the Fuqua School of Business. Any member of the Duke community can have property engraved and register an item with Duke Police.