When Jeffrey Cohen, the chair of the English department, returned to his office after making some photocopies, what he found astonished him. His desk was arranged as usual, but there was a gaping hole where his laptop computer had been 30 minutes earlier. Also its chain lock cable was slashed.
"I was angry," Cohen said. "Someone was in my office suite and didn't see anything except heard my door shut and thought it was me. Clearly, the thief was a person who had scoped out my office and was ready to move."
Cohen left the door to his office open, which is a part of the English department suite. There was another person in the suite at the time, but as she had her back turned, she did not notice that Cohen was not the one who had entered the office.
There were a total of 122 burglaries on campus in 2006, 72 of which were non-forcible - meaning the crime's location was unsecured or open and accessible, University Police Chief Dolores Stafford said. The police should not take the blame for non-forcible thefts, she said.
Metropolitan Police Department told Cohen that stealing computers in office buildings is a common occurrence in downtown Washington.
"We can't be everywhere and we certainly can't keep the campus completely secure and free from crime on our own - everyone has to take some responsibility for the security of their property and their personal safety," Stafford wrote in an e-mail. Recently in the economics department three wallets of professors have been stolen since the department moved to Monroe a month and a half ago, said Donald Parsons, an economics professor.
"I feel safe. I think it is really more of a matter of faculty being careful," Parsons said.
The Academic Center, Gelman Library and the ground floor of the Marvin Center are all open 24 hours. Both the Academic Center and the ground floor of the Marvin Center offer students 24-hour computer labs.
These buildings are all patrolled by security guards at night. Stafford said building access is determined in light of "academic goals," not security concerns. She said there are not security cameras on the floors of most buildings on campus. They are just located at the exits and entrances of buildings and "other key areas."