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Thefts from offices, vehicles up at Stanford

STANFORD -- Thefts from offices, dorms and vehicles are increasing on the Stanford University campus, police officials warn.

Major crimes and serious thefts, such as those involving computers, are down or at least stable from previous years, but most other theft and burglary categories are way up, Capt. Raoul Niemeyer said Monday, March 2.

Most of those thefts are taking place in offices or in dormitory rooms, Niemeyer said. Since Jan. 1, there have been 12 workplace thefts and 13 dorm thefts reported.

In addition, bicycle thefts are up 28 percent this year. Already in 1992, 149 bikes have been stolen on campus; of those, 36 were valued at $400 or more. Motor vehicle thefts are up 33 percent from last year.

Fifty cases of theft from a vehicle have been reported; almost all the thefts were of stereos and related equipment.

Of particular concern to police and employees are the so- called "institutional" thefts, which occur in offices where security is generally light.

The thieves boldly walk into offices and lift wallets, purses, cash, checkbooks, expensive pen-and-pencil sets, computer equipment, credit cards and automatic teller cards. If confronted, they usually say they are looking for somebody or are delivering something, Niemeyer said.

"They know how to talk to people, they know the scams," Niemeyer said. "They usually have their answers already prepared."

Oftentimes, he said, would-be thieves "case" an office and pick up business cards so that they have a convincing name to offer as an excuse when confronted.

Niemeyer said that while these criminals are usually veterans, they rarely, if ever, get physical when confronted.

"If people see someone who doesn't look like they belong in that office, they should find out who they are and what they want," Niemeyer said. "If they look suspicious, someone should call the police and we'll check it out; we're usually only a few minutes away from any campus location."

A solid description of the suspicious party is needed, Niemeyer said, because when confronted, they usually leave the immediate area in a hurry.

Niemeyer said that once a crook has a credit card or automatic teller card, he or she will often telephone the victim, posing as a police officer, to obtain the personal identification number required to obtain cash.

"Usually they're at a pay phone right next to your ATM machine," Niemeyer said.

Police, he said, never call people for that kind of information. If anyone calls asking for personal identification or Social Security numbers, Niemeyer suggests, the thing to do is ask for the caller's number and say, "I'll call you back with the information."

Other things members of the community can do to prevent being victims include:

  • Locking offices, if possible.
  • Locking wallets, purses, etc., instead of leaving them in unlocked drawers or in pockets of jackets and coats hung in the office.

"A lot of women will put their purses in the lower left drawer of their desk," Niemeyer said. "That is the first place a crook looks."

  • Reporting all suspicious activity to police and confronting people who don't appear to belong in the workplace or dormitory.

"Just ask them what they want; that's usually enough," Niemeyer said.

  • Locking bicycles to an immobile object.
  • Installing car alarms or the more inexpensive mechanical steering column locks.
  • Reporting to police people hanging around cars without any apparent purpose.
  • Taking with you your "pull-out" stereo systems.

"A lot of people pull out the stereo, then try to 'hide' it under the seat," Niemeyer said.



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