Van Pelt thefts down 74 percent from last year

Security measures implemented last September to fight high theft rate seem to be working

· September 24, 2012, 10:56 pm

Crackdowns on security in Van Pelt Library have led to a 74-percent decrease in thefts in the building.

Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 16 of 2011, there were 19 thefts from building in Van Pelt. In the same time period in 2012, there were only five.

This comes after new measures were implemented by the Division of Public Safety in September last year.

“Towards the end of spring 2011, there were some unattended thefts that were occurring in the library, mostly laptops,” Director of Security Services Cherie Heller said.

Heller said Security Services evaluated Van Pelt crime in the summer of 2011 and then took several steps to alleviate it for the fall.

“With the school year kicking off in September, it was the perfect time to kick [the new security plan] off,” she said.

Security Services looked at the Van Pelt hours of operation and when the general public was entering the library. They changed visitor hours for non-PennCard holders from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday to 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, unless prior arrangements were made with the building staff.

Additionally, library staff began looking more closely at who was coming into the building and only accepting those with state identification, passports or valid student IDs.

A large part of the new security measures was the Fast Pass technology. The system scans and stores all ID information into a database when a visitor swipes in.

A camera also snaps a picture of the visitor, and the person is given a photo ID and is required to wear it at all times.

Increased patrols were put in place to search for unattended items. An unattended laptop is locked by security staff members until the owner returns and identifies it as his or hers.

There are also notices for the Theft Awareness Campaign in Van Pelt cubicles, reminding students to look after their belongings.

According to Heller, on March 22, a staff member observed suspicious behavior by someone on the premises during visitor hours. One student left items unattended and returned to find a laptop, among other things, missing.

Security retrieved images of the suspect, and the student identified him as being in the area during the time of the crime. Security staff later found the suspect along with the missing items and arrested him.

Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said “Fast Pass technology really sealed the deal” for apprehension when detectives investigated cases of theft.

“[The arrest in Van Pelt] is an example of how the community can help us,” she added. “Usually when you’re in the library, you are there for a reason. If you see someone there displaying suspicious behavior, explain it to security.”

Rush also advised students to not ask someone to watch their belongings for them. Students can retrieve locks for their laptops at the Rosengarten desk.

Staff writer Caroline Meuser contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to indicate that new safety measures were implemented by the Division of Public Safety, not AlliedBarton Security Services.

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