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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.
Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

21 Comments on Allston Man Arrested in Two Campus Laptop Thefts

  • Missy on 12.05.2013 at 7:07 am

    This is great story that provides readers with some really useful information and tips. The more people that use GPS tracking systems that help our law enforcement officers apprehend thieves the sooner the thieves will learn that crime does not pay.

  • Don on 12.05.2013 at 8:50 am

    I heard that one can’t get into a Harvard U library if one doesn’t have a valid university ID. BU libraries should definitely do the same. It’s crazy to ask students to carry their laptop to bathroom or coffee shop for five minutes in the library – that only tells us the environment is not safe and someone in charge is not doing their job. The door guards should check everyone’s ID before allowing the person get into the building.

    • Public place on 12.05.2013 at 9:26 am

      Its not crazy, its common sense. Taking your laptop with you is better than leaving it unattended. If I forget my BU ID I don’t want to not have access to the library all because some people find it too much of a hassle to not leave expensive belongings in public places.

    • Nicole on 12.05.2013 at 9:43 am

      It’s not ridiculous. BU students are just as capable of stealing a fellow student’s laptop than a stranger off the streets. Maybe checking IDs would limit the potential for laptop thefts, but it would in no way stop all thefts.

      Also, libraries–even those in privately owned universities–should be public resources. We should not bar non-BU community members access to our library just because students are too lazy to carry their computers to the bathroom.

      I have had my laptop stolen (and fortunately returned) when I left it unattended. Now I always take the extra 30 seconds to put it in my backpack when I leave for a few minutes. It’s not a difficult task.

    • Chris on 12.05.2013 at 10:22 am

      Right, because fellow students would be incapable of theft.

    • Mark on 12.05.2013 at 1:31 pm

      I think this is a rational idea. A lot of private universities check IDs at all building entrances.

      If you don’t have your ID or you’re a non-BU student they take a copy of your drivers license/ID. There is nothing that could eliminate all theft, but ID checking is a significant deterrent.

  • Steve on 12.05.2013 at 10:00 am

    BU is a private university. So the libraries are private properties that should be reserved for the use of the BU community. Access should only be granted to BU ID holders. End of story.

    • Nicole on 12.05.2013 at 10:50 am

      It’s absurd to suggest we keep people from our learning resources. And what about alumni? They shouldn’t have access to their own alma mater’s library?

      Should we have to show our IDs to get into the GSU? The Starbucks in Kenmore? I would venture to guess that most people would not want to keep non-BU ID holders out of on-campus restaurants because the restaurants would lose money. But how are those less of a safety concern than the library? They’re not. I have faith that our students can suck it up and carry our laptops with us when we take a pee. It’s truly not an inconvenience.

      • Jadin on 12.05.2013 at 12:49 pm

        Alumni have BU ID’s. Plus, why would alumni be in the library?

        • Jay on 12.07.2013 at 7:31 am

          I’m a BU alum who’s working on a PhD at an online university. I’ve used the BU library frequently since I started my studies. And before that, I frequently used the library for job-related research.

    • Bob on 12.05.2013 at 10:50 am

      If only BU ID holders provided all the funding to BU Libraries, I would agree with you

    • James on 12.05.2013 at 11:12 am

      BU is a private university, but I hope that it serves the public, especially since it receives so much public funding for its research. Providing access to information is one of the foremost public services universities provide, and I would be sad to see Boston University close its library doors to the people of Boston who aren’t fortunate enough to attend it.

  • Lisa on 12.05.2013 at 11:21 am

    Years ago access to Mugar was restricted to folks with BU IDs.

  • Meh on 12.05.2013 at 12:36 pm

    The same people who want ID only access people allowed in the library are the same people that live in gated communities; they want to live isolated from reality.

  • frenchie on 12.05.2013 at 4:03 pm

    Can you all quit these idealized, vain pretensions? BU’s foremost responsibility is not to educate the public or give it access to its resources that us students PAY for. It would be nice if the library could be open to the public, and only people with good intentions would use it; however, after this incident and this one http://www.bu.edu/today/2012/brighton-man-arrested-for-photographing-women-in-mugar/ this is clearly not the case and we have to be realistic. Only people with BU IDs should be allowed access, and they should make unaffiliated visitors register in advance and check into the library with an ID if they wish to use it. Even though of course there is a chance that BU students could be thefts or weirdos themselves, it is less likely since most thiefs are not in the psychographic group that choose to attend college. We students should not have to fear going to the library.

  • Really? on 12.05.2013 at 6:13 pm

    I question your grasp of reality if you are scared of going to the library.

  • frenchie on 12.06.2013 at 1:19 am

    See previous link to incident from last year. If you don’t find that alarming/frightening, then I question “your grasp of reality.”

    • Hmm on 12.06.2013 at 4:12 pm

      Its an isolated incident, so no I don’t find it worth drawing conclusions from. If you are so high up on your ivory tower that you can’t understand the value of an open library for the community and are discouraged from going to the library from that I isolated incident then I would caution you not to even venture outside.

  • james on 12.06.2013 at 10:40 am

    Wow what a waste, and now he’s going to jail for such a small amount of money. He doesn’t look like he will fare well in prison, either.

  • BU staff on 12.06.2013 at 11:19 am

    In addition to what others have noted about the fact that even BU-affiliated people have occasionally been known to commit bad deeds, there are other good reasons not to require a valid BU ID to enter University libraries. (A valid ID *is* required to check out any materials, by the way.) How about when your BF/GF is visiting for the weekend from their school but still needs to do some research on an important project? Oops, sorry. Don’t bother coming here; that’s not allowed. And here’s a common situation: Say a student is taking a semester “off” from BU because she got really sick halfway through the last semester and ended up arranging with professors to get Incompletes. Now she’s doing all the work to finish up those courses, but she’s not registered for the current semester. She’s still doing BU school work and she IS a BU student, but her BU ID card won’t swipe as valid because she’s officially on a leave of absence this term. Does she get an exception to your rule so she can enter the library? If so, what kind of proof is needed to allow it? What if it’s 8 p.m. and the profs can’t be reached to vouch for her? And do you want to pay for the additional library staff who will be needed to monitor this? No, you don’t, and neither does anyone else. Plus, I thought the whole ID rule was supposedly to keep people from stealing laptops but, OMG, LAPTOPS ARE STILL BEING STOLEN! WHATEVER WILL WE DO? So, yeah, let’s just register our laptops and keep them with us instead.

  • frenchie on 12.06.2013 at 7:34 pm

    I am not in an “ivory tower” opposing public use of the library. As I suggested in my previous post, members of the public should be able to leave an official government-issued ID at the front desk in order to gain access. A student on a leave of absence could do the same. Also, additional library staff would not be needed because there are already guards hired to sit at the front door.

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