‘To the person who took my laptop yesterday,’ says a note on the notice board of the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, ‘could you please give it back to me. I will give you the amount of money you want. I can even pay in advance. The data is so important and I am really worried.’
This cry for help came from the Chinese PhD candidate, Rayna Wu. She was alone in her room at 16:40 on Monday 30 September and went to get some water. She closed the door behind her, but did not lock it with her pass. “The coffee corner is close to my office and it only takes a couple of minutes,” she says.
When she came back, her silver MacBook Pro had disappeared, says Wu. Her mobile phone was still on the table under a sheet of paper. “My colleague came in just before me and said that the door was open when she came in,” says Wu. “Other people didn’t see anyone walking down the corridor.”
The PhD candidate went to the service desk where a staff member phoned security. Wu told her story and a report was made. She was very upset the first few days after the theft. Wu is at TU Delft on an exchange for her doctoral degree research – she will obtain her doctorate in China – and has now lost 10 months’ work. She can only retrieve part of her work in emails and she thinks that she will have to spend two months catching up.
Where her laptop is now is anyone’s guess. An app that could locate it has not yet thrown up any clues. “The laptop has not connected to the internet. It’s probably been refurbished,” says Wu.
Her Indonesian colleague one floor down was also the victim of theft. This makes Wu think that the thief is targeting Asians. “We are less aware of theft. There are cameras everywhere in China – why aren’t there cameras everywhere here?”
According to TU Delft spokesperson Karen Collet, there are cameras and the Faculty is working on having the doors lock automatically. “Up to now people had the choice as they could easily accidentally lock themselves out,” explains Collet.
This year, nine laptops have been stolen from the Faculty. The Safety and Security project leader Amer Gobeljic says that these were five TU Delft and four privately owned laptops. The TU Delft laptops were insured, but the private ones were not.
Nobody knows if any of the laptops were found. “You rarely find them again,” says the police spokesperson Annemarie de Mooij. “It is easy to steal something in a public building. You can hide a laptop in your bag just like that and if you don’t have any images, it’s really hard to find out who did it. It’s better to take preventive action.”
Given the open character of the buildings, TU Delft regularly advises the following.
- Keep a close eye on your belongings and those of your direct colleagues and students.
- Attach your laptop to a cable.
- Close doors.
- Do not leave valuable things behind.
- Make back-ups.
These tips were shared during the Safety Week. But for Wu they came too late.