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Mike Johnson '11: Sticky fingers

If you're like me, you look forward to the crime updates that the Department of Public Safety sends us. Perhaps it's a healthy dose of schadenfreude, but the Campus Safety reports are much more interesting to read than Morning Mail messages, as they practically embody an e-mail version of "Cops," minus the trailer park drama. But something that's been making a recurring appearance in these crime reports is fairly disturbing. No, not rogue roller-blade gangs that knock over innocent pedestrians, but rather laptop theft.

Now, my laptop has my life on it. In the cyber age, we need laptops to send and receive e-mails, write papers and, obviously, Facebook-stalk anyone and everyone we've ever met. By no means am I unsympathetic to victims of laptop theft — those little boxes of circuits cost much more than they probably should. But the reason a theft victim feels distraught about his or her loss is the exact reason a thief's grubby little fingers sweat at the thought of nabbing a laptop: They're worth a lot of money.

I think it's safe to assume that no Brown student would leave $2,000 lying on a table in the Ratty while wandering around the Roots and Shoots line spelunking for pumpkin ravioli. So why, then, do backpacks lie unattended in chairs, waiting to be plucked by the sticky fingers of a vagrant? If the goal is to reserve a table (which is exceedingly necessary on pumpkin ravioli night, those things are delicious) then a jacket suffices, or perhaps a friend can watch the group's belongings until one of them returns.

According to the campus safety e-mail updates, 25 laptops have been stolen in October and November alone. 25. Yet only three of the seven in November were victims of ill-advised seat saving in dining halls. In October, 12 of the 18 purloined laptops were pilfered from residence halls. This is especially perplexing, because everyone's room comes with a door with a lock on it, standard, for no additional fee.

It's a fairly simple causal relationship, and yet it's one the students of Brown seem not to have grasped — if you don't want your things stolen, lock your door. Unfortunately, the time of "The Scarlet Letter" has passed, and thieves don't walk around prominently displaying a giant "T" on their chests. As a result, the materialistic Brown student who affords certain sentimentality to his or her belongings is forced to suspect everyone. Who knows what will happen while we carry our laundry down the four flights of stairs, outside, and then back inside to the laundry room, as some New Pembrokers are forced to do?

I know of some students who are so prudent as to lock their doors when they leave to go use the bathroom. This is perhaps a little overzealous, but, on the bright side, they still possess their laptops. However, I know others who still don't lock their doors when they go to sleep. This is very, very bad. Not only does it allow prank-playing neighbors to sneak into their rooms to move the furniture around, it also allows malicious burglars to steal whatever shiny things they can come across.

It is important not to blame the victim in all cases. If people weren't sinking to the low level of selling others' belongings to make a quick buck, this wouldn't be an issue. But unfortunately, there are those who are cowardly enough to steal and graft, and it is a fact of life. It may never be known what possesses a person to stumble across a door that is closed and test it to see if it's locked. Still more perplexing is what possesses that same person to then open the door, chancing that the tenant of the room is still inside. Does the thief have a line such as, "Oops, this isn't the lounge!" prepared for that contingency?

But whatever twisted logic a thief uses to drive his detestable actions, it is possible to deter him with simple steps. Travel in packs — vigilant, aware packs that don't leave laptops lying around the Ratty and V-Dub. Invest in an alarm system for your computer (many of which are free, especially if you have a MacBook) or a Lo-Jack device. Definitely register your devices with DPS. These steps could prove invaluable in recovering your belongings should they be stolen. But most of all, fellow Brunonians, lock your doors, and don't leave your stuff lying about, unless you aren't incredibly attached to it.

Mike Johnson '11 isn't bitter at all about the laundry situation in New Pembroke.



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