An increase in technology used by USC’s Dept. of Public Safety has led to more burglars being caught and items recovered from incidents of theft on campus, according to DPS Capt. David Carlisle.
Recently, campus dorms and classrooms have been the targets of the theft of electronics. Last week, Anthony Devon Ross, a non-USC student, was arrested for stealing multiple laptops and other electronic devices from Fluor Tower on the northwest side of the University Park Campus. Ross is a familiar face at the dorm and is suspected of conducting a string of burglaries in the dorm dating back to April 2011, Carlisle said.
“[Being] on the perimeter of campus might be an issue [for Fluor],” Carlisle said. “There’s also a lot of foot traffic around Fluor because of the Lyon Center. Plus, we are the most diverse campus in the United States, so it’s easy to blend in as a USC student.”
College campuses are enticing to thieves because of how many electronics students own, Carlisle said.
“Thieves choose college campuses because that’s where the electronics are,” Carlisle said. “You just name it — there’s thousands of laptops, smartphones and iPods everywhere.”
Burglars are not the only ones looking for new electronics on campus, though. DPS is beginning to use technology to its advantage.
Ross was apprehended last year with the help of surveillance cameras unique to Fluor Tower. After DPS identified him on the camera, they distributed crime bulletins with his face around the residential hall. From these surveillance pictures, a Fluor residential advisor was able to recognize his face and identify him from the picture.
DPS has also used newer technology to recover stolen items. After students from a yoga class held in the Physical Education building had their electronic possessions stolen from them earlier this month, DPS used Find My iPhone, a standard tracking device, to locate the smartphones. The tracking device traced the phones to a used phone business in Chinatown where the perpetrators were disassembling them to rebuild and sell them.
Carlisle attributes these recoveries to the increase in technology his department is using and encourages students to utilize it more too.
“It’s definitely making our job more efficient,” Carlisle said. “We have recovered more stolen items because we can use tracking software, but we can’t take advantage of that technology if people who own the electronics don’t install the applications.”
This marks the first year that university students are being offered free tracking software. Frontdoor Software, which can be downloaded to laptops and lasts for four years, is a product to ward off electronics theft on campus. When a laptop is taken, the owner can report it as stolen, and the security software makes the laptop become vocal, alerting others around it that the device has been stolen and is in the hands of the wrong person.
DPS Chief Carey Drayton believes this new software could be an effective product for USC students to use.
“A computer that is protected with something is better than a computer protected with nothing,” Drayton said.
Though more stolen items are being recovered with technological advances, some students are still wary about the security of their electronics on campus. Tracking technology does not work if a thief has powered off a laptop or cell phone.
Anne Kennedy, a freshman majoring in psychology, has firsthand experience with this problem — her laptop was stolen while she was in a yoga class.
“There’s definitely a theft problem on campus,” Kennedy said. “I take my stuff with me everywhere now. I think tracking is just for emotional security, honestly.”
Other students, however, believe that the new technology can prove helpful if every student contributes to solving the theft problem on campus.
“I’ll probably download the Frontdoor Software,” said Julia Loup, a freshman majoring in psychology who had an iPod stolen last month. “But I think it’s a combination of both the tracking technology and other students on campus being smart with looking out for their stuff.”