Butler University is experiencing a spike in small electronics theft from academic buildings.
On Monday, Feb. 25, four items were stolen from the Pharmacy and Health Sciences Building, Holcomb Building and Gallahue Hall between 7:15 and 8:30 a.m.
The items were taken from open lounge areas in the building and one open classroom where a student was studying.
Bruce Allee, BUPD detective, said he personally believes the thief is not a student but someone who knows the building fairly well.
“Whoever took these things had a definite route through the buildings and seemed to know his way around,” Allee said. “Although there is unfortunately some student-on-student theft here at Butler, those crimes are usually crimes of opportunity. This thief was in a hurry to get as many things as possible, which is not indicative of student-on-student theft.”
The Friday prior, Feb. 22, an iPhone was stolen from the basement of Gallahue from biology professor James Shellhaas’ office.
Shellhaas said he left his phone “semi-unattended” for about three hours when he came in early while Butler was on a two-hour weather delay.
“I wish I had been less trustful,” Shellhaas said. “I was first mad, and then I felt stupid for being so trusting. In 33 years at Butler, this is the first time I have had anything stolen from me.”
All thefts occurred when the owners left their electronic devices out in the open to go to the restroom or to move to a new location, Allee said.
“It only takes a few minutes,” Allee said. “Most of these students were gone for five or six minutes and their laptops were stolen.”
One Butler senior said she left her laptop in a classroom in Gallahue for less than 30 seconds as she moved to another room to continue studying.
“I didn’t really think my stuff would be gone in a matter of 30 seconds,” she said. “Now I no longer study in areas where there aren’t a lot of people around, and I only leave the room when my friends are seated at my table so I don’t have to move my stuff. Or I just carry everything with me.”
The same student said she would like to see the university invest in increased security, further restrict access into buildings and install security cameras.
Allee said it is too tough to say at the time whether or not the theft on Feb. 22 and the multiple thefts on Feb. 25 were committed by the same person.
Allee said stolen computers are difficult to recover because they are not showing up on Craigslist or in pawn shops.
“We think these items are being sold to small electronics stores,” Allee said.
Allee said he thinks Butler students are too lax with their electronic devices.
“We like to think that we are in such a nice bubble here at Butler, and we are,” Allee said. “But it’s not as if thieves forget that we’re here. They know how easy it is to steal from college students.”
Shellhaas said he has witnessed students leaving electronics unattended in Gallahue.
“Students routinely leave their laptops unattended down here in the basement of Gallahue while they go to the restroom or to get something to eat,” Shellhaas said. “That’s plenty of opportunity for a thief.”
Ben Hunter, executive director of public safety, said it is important for students to utilize tracking devices on their electronics.
“It’s still disappointing that these thefts happen, but students can be proactive,” Hunter said. “Most electronics have tracking devices that will make finding stolen devices much easier. I definitely urge all students, faculty and staff to install these tracking features.”
Allee said all students with iPhones should keep the iCloud feature on, as it makes phone tracking much easier.
“If you don’t know how to install Find My iPhone, come to BUPD,” Allee said. “We will be happy to do it for you.”
Allee said BUPD will be more present in academic buildings due to recent thefts, but said locking academic buildings earlier is not likely.
“We would like the buildings to be locked earlier, but we understand that professors and students like having easy access,” Allee said. “We think that we’ve reached a good compromise with when the buildings lock.”
Allee said he encourages students who think they see someone suspicious on campus to call BUPD.
“Students should never feel guilty about being curious of other people’s actions or intentions,” Allee said.
Allee urges students to think twice before leaving their belongings out in an open area.
“Ask yourself if you would leave $400 or $2,000 on the table where you are about to leave your iPhone or your MacBook,” Allee said. “If the answer is no, then just take it with you.”