As campus cleared out for fall break, several students in K-State’s College of Architecture, Planning, and Design returned to their studios in Seaton Hall to find their computers missing on Nov. 18.
According to Benjamin Wagner, senior in landscape architecture and one of the victims of the burglary, the six stolen computers were secured by lock cables and left in four different studios.
“The act was premeditated,” Wagner said. “These thieves knew what tools to bring with them, they knew which rooms in Seaton contained Apple computers, and they knew approximately what time they should enter the building.”
Wagner said that the crime was discovered around 8:30 p.m., when one of his friends received a call notifying him that his computer and several others on the first floor of Seaton were missing.
Half an hour later, Wagner too discovered that his computer was gone from the second-floor studio it was left in. The students, who think that the theft occurred between 7:15 and 8:30 in the evening, notified campus police, who arrived at the scene quickly and recorded information.
“The value [of the stolen property] is over $10,000,” said Capt. Don Stubbings, of the K-State Police Department, in an email interview.
Wagner, who says he has been spreading the word about the crime in an attempt to raise awareness, mentioned his concern that the case “wasn’t a huge priority” for the officers on the scene.
According to Wagner, the officers did little more than take down information on what he described as “small, four inch by five inch” notepads.
“Frankly, they didn’t really understand how a computer is so central to our education,” he said. “I didn’t feel like [the officer] had a grasp of the magnitude of the loss.”
According to Stubbings, the campus police department features a dedicated group of officers who take pride in bringing closure to cases.
“In recent cases, such as the burglaries and thefts in Throckmorton, we were able to make arrests,” he said.
According to the 2012 Campus Security and Fire Safety Report, campus security procedures involve locking building doors by 10 p.m. and conducting walk-throughs of select campus buildings. Stubbings added that the K-State Police Department randomly checks buildings, and follows up on reports of suspicious activity.
The report also states that between 2009 and 2011, 67 burglaries occurred on campus. Stubbings, who was out of his office when contacted for this article, did not have immediate access to the number of burglaries that have taken place to date in 2012, or information on the number of those cases that ended in an arrest.
Wagner, a fifth-year senior, said that the computers are worth far more to the students than their monetary value, in some cases representing years of course work.
“The loss of intellectual property is significant,” he said, adding that at least one of the victims lost over two years worth of work. “The amount of work on these computers, the time we invest, is huge. We back up the work from time to time, but that’s more of a way to guard against computer failure than theft.”
According to Stubbings, details of the investigation cannot be released at this time.
“As in all cases, we have an investigative process,” he wrote in the email. “Since it is an ongoing investigation we cannot discuss details to protect the integrity of the investigation.”
Tim de Noble, dean of the College of Architecture, Planning, and Design, said he was “dismayed” by the thefts and by “the sense of insecurity” it caused his students.
“Our studios are our students’ second homes, where their significant work occurs and where they chart their futures,” he said.
According to de Noble, each studio is shared by several students who have keys to the door, and college administrators will try to determine if the studios were locked at the time of the burglary.
Wagner also said that, since the computers are required by the college to remain locked in Seaton, he hopes that the victims will receive monetary compensation for their loss.
De Noble did not rule out this possibility, and said that he and his department will attempt to help students recover a portion of the losses.
“Hopefully we can find some way to cover any deductible or anything like that,” he said.
Wagner, however, said that money is not the only thing on his mind.
“Quite frankly, it was a traumatic experience for all those involved,” he said. “My largest concern is that this doesn’t happen again. I hope we’re making enough noise that people hear us.”