Allston Man Arrested in Two Campus Laptop Thefts
BUPD urges caution, especially around finals
University police arrested a 24-year-old Allston man yesterday for allegedly stealing two laptop computers at Mugar Memorial Library, part of a string of laptop thefts from the library and the George Sherman Union since early October.
Jesse Ritson is expected to be arraigned today in Roxbury District Court, says BU Police Department Detective Sergeant Peter Torchio. While a total of seven laptops have been swiped from the two locations, “we can’t put all seven on him,” says Torchio, adding that surveillance video shows Ritson taking the two he’s charged with and stashing them in a backpack.
Police believe Ritson stole the other five as well and are continuing their investigation, Torchio says. Police have not recovered any of the laptops, and Ritson “won’t talk to us,” he says.
Besides the video, another technology led police to Ritson. On November 26, a student left his GPS-equipped computer unattended briefly at Mugar. When he returned 10 minutes later, it had vanished. Police traced the GPS signal to Ritson.
Ritson allegedly tried to elude capture by altering his appearance during the thefts—parting his hair differently, for example—but he wore the same sneakers, revealed in the videos of the two thefts he’s charged with, Torchio says.
Police charged Ritson with two counts of larceny. A single count carries a maximum penalty of two-and-a-half years in jail or a fine of up to $500.
The arrest nothwithstanding, the BUPD urges students to keep their laptops with them at all times, especially during late night study sessions in Mugar and the GSU. With study period and final exams looming, both are expected to be especially busy during the next two weeks.
“It may seem to be a pain to take your laptop with you when you grab a cup of coffee, but it’s worth the trouble,” says BUPD Detective Lieutenant Peter DiDomenica. “Otherwise you’re rolling the dice that it’s going to be there when you get back. To just get up and hope that a stranger will intercede in a robbery is very risky, and who knows, that person sitting next to you could be the one who wants it.”
The good news is that compared to last year, the BUPD has seen a 35 percent decrease in laptop thefts so far this academic year: 26 laptops were stolen from September to November 2012, but only 17 in the same time period this year. Still, the recent increase is reason for concern, says DiDomenica, noting that Apple laptops are especially vulnerable to poaching: 13 of the 17 computers stolen since the semester began have been MacBooks.
“The majority of these thefts were laptops that were left unattended in a public place,” he says. “It is a crime of opportunity. People will be studying and get up to get a drink. All it takes is a few seconds.” In the Mugar thefts, the suspect entered and left the building in under 10 minutes, according to BU police.
The BUPD offers these tips for keeping your laptop safe:
- Register your computer with the University. The BUPD runs a program called STOP (Security Tracking of Office Property). Registered laptops get a number decal that makes it easier to identify if the police find it. It also makes it less appealing to thieves who are looking to sell the computer online or at a pawnshop, DiDomenica says.
- Download a tracking software, like LoJack for Laptops, or if you have an Apple computer, the Find My Mac program.
- Lock your dorm room or office when you leave.
- Never leave your computer unattended, even if it’s only for a minute. Take your computer with you if you get up to take a break, or ask a trusted friend to watch it.