Bait laptops thwart campus thieves

December 3, 2009

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The next weasel attempting to steal a laptop computer at SFU could be in for a very unpleasant surprise—a deafening alarm followed quickly by an SFU Security ambush and an RCMP arrest.

That’s the idea behind the university’s new bait-laptop program, inspired by ICBC’s highly successful (but unaffiliated) bait-car program and SFU Recreation and Athletics’ equally effective bait-locker ruse.

The program was launched at the Burnaby campus in September, but it has already helped reduce laptop robberies by 18 per cent, from 27 thefts in September-October 2008 to 22 for the same period this year.

"The increased risk of being caught is enough to make thieves think twice," says SFU Security supervisor Kiehah Kim, noting posters throughout the campus reinforce that message with a terse warning: "We’re Watching". But he adds owners "should continue to be diligent and not leave laptop computers and valuables unattended."


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This astounds me - I don't know how many times I've taken lost items to Campus Security for lost and if I

do that I'll be "ambushed" by campus security and arrested by the RCMP?

For what? Taking a LOST item to the LOST AND FOUND?



We routinely leave our cars unattended. Its called parking. Laptops are a different matter. An unattended laptop is an infrequent sight, so it likely will attract some attention from people interested in re-uniting it with the owner as well. I would be pretty annoyed if I suffered the embarrassment of being arrested for trying to do a good deed (taking to lost and found).


I picked up a purse left by a fellow student and took it to the lab after class in hopes that she would go there too. THANKFULLY it was not a "bait purse" and she was so grateful that we did not simply leave it in the classroom. Next time I will call security to come and pick up any left behind items. Hope they have lots of staff because they will need it!


While this sounds like a good idea in theory, there's no way we can find out whether the person who has the laptop is a good Samaritan or a thief. I could easily see a thief claiming to be returning the laptop to a lost and found, and vice versa.

A better solution would be to not ambush the person, but to track where they take the laptop; if they're going off campus, then it's pretty obvious they're not going to return the laptop anytime soon, it and gives much stronger evidence of theft.


This is a pretty flawed program. As said before, there's no way of knowing if the person is a good samaritan of a thief, nor is it fair to embarrass the former.

Secondly, how many people actually know about the program? Most thefts are opportunistic and I doubt they research whether or not an alarm will sound.

Third, I don't think the "18% decrease" is the effect of the program. If you think about it, 5 laptops really isn't that significant. Bringing me back to the second point, I did not see this until december, and the data here is for sept-oct. A 5 laptop decrease could be purely coincidence.

You might want to do your homework when advertising to students...


The previous comments do not seem to take into consideration the fact that it is really hard to accidentally leave a laptop behind (as opposed to a bag, purse, or jacket, etc) so there is little need to try to be a "good Samaritan" and take it to the lost and found...


I don't know... a laptop left on a table in the library, with books, pens and paper around wouldn't look to me as if it were "lost" or "forgotten". It would look as if the owner had stepped away for a minute. So you wouldn't be doing that person a favour by taking it away to security as lost and found. You would be screwing them over. I had some textbooks ripped off from my table while I was photocopying something for less than five minutes. Surprisingly they were never turned in to lost and found. The bottom line... don't touch things that don't belong to you.


everybody better program in 778 782 3100, because that is campus security. Instead of touching something we might as well call them up....I agree with whats being said, there better be more security staff handy.

Julie Glazier

There appears to be some confusion as to the intent and purpose of the bait laptop program at SFU Burnaby.

The bait laptop program is an educational initiative, and is used as a theft deterrent on campus.

Campus Security does not arrest persons for the act of sounding an alarm on a bait laptop. As an education-based program, anyone found to have activated an alarm would be approached by Campus Security personnel, and the situation would be discussed. Good samaritans will simply become more knowledgable about our program through interaction with Campus Security staff, and do not have to fear arrest.

I invite anyone with questions or concerns regarding this initiative to contact myself at the Campus Security department. I believe with further knowledge of the program, its intent, and Campus Security's response, those in the campus community will appreciate and support this program.

Julie Glazier

Coordinator - Patrol Operations

SFU Campus Security


I seriously doubt the money spent on setting up these "bait laptops" is worthwhile. Laptops are fairly cheap these days with LOW re-sale value typically. Just look at craigslist. Aside from macs, haha. The bait cars program however seems more reasonable. Cars are more expensive and thieves profit more from them so it's worth the time, effort, and money spent to implement a bait car system. And for laptops I mean seriously, who would just walk away from their own laptop at school when they dont have someone watching over their stuff? I'm sure it happens... every ONCE in a blue moon. Bah, as long as our tuition is not affected, I dont mind this new system.


LOL sarah please tell me your not really comparing a laptop to a car ...


22 laptops stolen this year compared to 27 last year. how can they claim that the program is statistically significant in deterring theft?


I don't think the issue is with the re-sale value of laptops as much as it is with the potential for identity theft. That being said, if only around 80 laptops are being stolen per year at an institution that boasts tens of thousands of students, is this really a problem? Is it a good use of public resources to worry about this matter? On the other hand, I have been to SFU securtiy enough to know that they aren't always looking that busy, so maybe it is a good idea to put these folks to work.


This is the first I've heard of bait-laptops and if it has supposedly been lowering the theft rates since September, why is it still so unknown? That just seems coincidental. Perhaps if this system was advertised more in the libraries in each campus by posters etc. then I could see that deterring theft, but since it is still so unknown it isn't really preventing anything.


Well, I have to agree with Grant above. No one just forgets a laptop. If you own a laptop, you would know this. A person does though, leave there stuff (texts, note pads, pens, highlighters, and what not) at their work station and go to the printing station, washroom, to the nearest snack/beverage machine, etc. I own a laptop and a $2000.oo one at that and I have done it myself many times, and I have seen many other people do it as well. It is completely rediculous to think one has to pack up all of there stuff just to go pee or print out a document that takes a minute or two. Security can not be in all places at once. This program is an aid to them for that reason, and is meant to make your and my campus a safer and better place.

There is no place for a good samaritan in the case of a "lone laptop" because if someone leaves there laptop with there stuff they have meant to do so. And if this good samaritan is going to take the laptop to the "lost and found" or security, then that good samaritan would have to pack up the persons back pack with all the books and supplies left with the laptop.

And if someone actually did forgot there laptop then frankly they deserve to have it stolen. A laptop is not a small insignificant item one just forgets. A cell phone maybe, laptop, not a chance.

I for one think the plan is a very good one. And for you university students who have written on this little forum, I sugest a little critical thinking before knocking an anti-theft program, or any program for that matter.


I found an ipod touch laying around on some couches in the AQ and I looked around, and found the girls name through her facebook, long story short, i was able to return it to her.

My friend left her cellphone in a booth at Mackenzie Cafe, and we called it and someone answered and was very helpful in returning it to her.

Our campus from my experience is pretty awesome. People are not all untrustworthy. Where is the love people, where is the love?


Andrew and Grant above pretty much said what I wanted to say, but I just want to give another vote of support for this idea.

Unlike your mp3 player or your cellphone, you don't just forget your laptop. You may leave it unattended for a couple of minutes to go print something or whatnot, but I would bet that nobody has ever packed up their stuff, gone home, and forgotten their laptop. The idea is just ridiculous.

To all the "Good Samaritans" out there... have you ever seen an unattended laptop around campus? Of course you have; people don't pack up everything just to go print a document or go to the washroom. Did you, as a "Good Samaritan", pick up the unattended laptop and give it to Campus Security as a lost object? Probably not - that's common sense. If it was a cellphone or mp3 player you would, but not a laptop. See the difference?

I for one would rather people (including "Good Samaritans") are not touching my laptop for any reason whatsoever when I'm not watching it. This program is a great idea.


I think SFU is creating jobs again, just like 2 years ago when two workers used 2 months to repair the stairs outside AQ, which could be done in 1 week~

And now they can hire more securities, and we can feel more secured~

Kashif Pasta

I wish this program had prevented my laptop from being stolen out of my locker on campus in October!


"I for one would rather people (including "Good Samaritans") are not touching my laptop for any reason whatsoever when I'm not watching it. This program is a great idea."

When your laptop goes missing, you are going to pray a good samaritan has it...


I vote for common sense and simple discretion.

If you see an unattended laptop please refrain from being a "Good Samaritan" and leave it alone. The owner did not forget or abandon it, rather left it unattended for a moment. If you find a purse or a wallet, then I urge you to take it to campus security as there is no "bait purse or wallet" program at this time and its owner likely lost it.


"And if someone actually did forgot there laptop then frankly they deserve to have it stolen. A laptop is not a small insignificant item one just forgets. A cell phone maybe, laptop, not a chance."

Just wait for the day you forget yours. It happens.


I see a few posts from skeptics who think "good samaritans" will be the unintended target of this program - or that this program will likely deter would-be do-gooders from doing good.

I'd like to point out that the laptops may not be left lying around alone; perhaps they are placed among loose papers and an open textbook. Anyone who picks up the laptop in THAT case almost certainly intends to commit theft.


We haven't been given sufficient information to determine at what point the "takedown" is completed by RCMP/Security. Statute/case law dictates the necessary criteria by which a thief (in this case stealing a laptop) would have to successfully shown via actions to prove they stole w/ not only action but also intention.

I would hope the "takedown" would occur as the thief enters a bus or exits the mountain via vehicle. Otherwise as stated above, courts would likely dismiss the theft under charge.


I don't think anyone forgets their laptop, so that's just ridiculous to assume good Samaritans will be the victims here.

Andrew says it all. You skeptics are paranoid.


I found a laptop in its bag just outside the physics wing in Sept. I took it home that night, turned it on to see who it belonged to, then returned it the next morning (it was an SFU faculty computer).

Had I known about the bait program, I wouldn't have touched it - leaving it available for ANYONE to just grab it.

Tony S. Balongne

What we need to keep in mind here folks is that this is not about preventing or deterring property crime in the least. Any cop or seasoned security worker will tell you that the effectiveness of such tactics in reducing or deterring crime is extremely marginal. Why then should such petty theft reach the it has in our awareness? Quite simply, and I apologize in advance for those who might hold my opinion amongst their other objects of contempt (i.e. conspiracies and paranoid students) this program is meant to remind students in particular of the presence of security and the proximity of law enforcement on campus should we decide to get excited about issues of real concern such as the ridiculous cost of tuition, the decreasing quality of instruction and scholarship on campus and the transformation of a public institution into an experiment in social engineering for certain political and economic interests, all of which constitute a theft in themselves cloaked by the promises of a good paying career if you learn the skills of keeping your mouth shut and following the leader.

There was a time when students would not stand for this. That time has clearly passed at SFU thanks to successive impotent student administrations most notably the current and the former.


Steal laptop = go to jail.

Find a laptop = notify security guard/authority.

*Find a laptop, don't take it home! (Jeremy)


Well, this is obviously a good start to catch thiefs. However, this is not well planned. Some people are honest and take these to the Lost and Found. Now, this new system will prevent people from trying to help. Now, if I ever see anything I will ignore it because I don't want to be accused of anything (since many like to do that these days).


Wow.... truly waste of time seriously. People should just be responsible for their own laptops and not leave it for a prolonged period of time. What the heck is police up to these days? Hunting down laptop thieves by setting a trap in the university instead of being out there doing more important tasks?


Dear RCMP and SFU Security: please ignore the idiots protesting this brilliant idea. I love the idea of bait laptops and think it should be implemented in campus libraries across the country. Knee-jerk naive leftist undergrads jump on any opportunity to protest the "establishment" -- I wouldn't worry about them.

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