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Cramming madly for an exam, a student takes a break from his studies at the library to stretch his legs and grab a quick drink of water. When he comes back a mere five minutes later, his laptop - and every bit of work stored on its hard drive - is gone. Stolen.
This scene plays out all too often on campuses across the nation and, unfortunately, McGill is no exception. On the increase since last fall, campus theft will peak during exams when frazzled students become easy prey for thieves. "During this period, students spend an unbelievable amount of time studying in libraries, cafeterias and cafes," says Louise Savard, manager of Security Services. "They have so many things on their mind that eventually they let their guard down." Although the loot of choice among petty thieves these days includes laptops, wallets, iPods and bags, any item that is left alone and not chained to the desk is fair game.
Not all heists result from people leaving valuables unattended, however. Recently, one brazen crook was caught on a McGill security camera stealing the backpack of a student in conversation with a friend.
And for staffers and faculty who may sniff that this is a problem for students alone, think again. "We get calls from employees were robbed after going down the hall to send a fax," says Savard. An unlocked office is an open invitation for a professional thief.
While Security Services has increased its presence in target-rich environments - including libraries, the University Centre, the Engineering Complex and the Bronfman Building - Savard is hoping the people will take responsibility for their own possessions. "The best prevention is vigilance," she says. "Be aware of your surroundings and don't take security for granted."
Savard's office will conduct an anti-theft awareness campaign in conjunction with Tandem Montreal from April 3 to April 13. During this time the special task force will man kiosks around campus to educate people on deterring theft.
During the two-week period, Security Services will also offer an engraving service for valuables — one of the best ways to increase the chances of recovering stolen items. As well, staff will be discretely placing small cards on unattended belongings that list tips on how to avoid being a victim of crime. If you find one such card on your bag, consider yourself lucky - it could have just as easily have been stolen.