How secure is your stuff?
by Rachael Frey
Textbooks and binders, laptops and cameras.
Lab equipment, musical instruments, gym clothes and winter coats.
These are just a few of the cumbersome and heavy items that students are required to lug around on a daily basis, so it’s not surprising that so many students rent school lockers to relieve the strain and keep their belongings safe.
But are their lockers actually secure?
Just because Mount Royal University is a relatively small campus, it does not mean it’s exempt from issues such as break-ins and theft. Cameron Webster, a student in the environmental sciences program, had his locker broken into and several items were stolen, including his winter coat and a ukulele.
His locker is in a secluded hallway, and Webster said he was told by security there has been a rash of break-ins in that area of the school.
“The guard told us there had been nine (locker break-ins) in two weeks,” said Webster. “While we were there filling out a statement, we met another guy filling out a statement and his had just been broken into that night as well.
“It was the second time his locker had been broken into this way.”
Webster added: “The security guard even knew where my locker was before I told him. He said, ‘is it in this wing?’ I told him exactly where, and he’s like, ‘yeah, that’s the I-wing.”
Because the combination lock was gone entirely, Webster said security assumed the lock had been snipped open with bolt-cutters. Bill Spring, head of security at MRU, said “the locks we find have obviously been cut.”
When asked, Spring later said that there had only been three locker break-ins in the main part of the campus since September 2010. He double-checked security’s numbers and said that he couldn’t find evidence to show there had been a series of thefts in the I-wing.
Spring said that the break-ins may have gone unreported and he encourages everyone to report all incidents to security.
“I advise them not to put things like laptops (in the lockers) because that’s what people are after — they’ll steal an expensive item in order to try to convert it to cash right away,” Spring said. “I want people to be very trusting on campus of each other, but still there are always one or two people that will take advantage of that trust.”
Thefts in rec
The recreation lockers are known by campus security for having a higher rate of theft than the school lockers, though Spring said this is because many people do not lock them up while they are using the facilities.
He said there have already been six incidents of locker-theft in the recreation area in February 2011.
To help raise awareness amongst gym users of how important it is to properly secure the recreation lockers, security has started leaving slips of paper in unlocked units that state, “If I had time to leave this note, a thief would have time to steal your possessions.”
Spring said that no one except security officers are allowed to carry bolt-cutters on campus, and if anyone is seen carrying them it should be reported immediately. He also said it is important to report any theft to the police as well as Mount Royal’s security team.
Another security issue that arose this semester was a problem in which two different students had paid to rent lockers and were mistakenly given access to the same unit. Jeannine Moore, a sociology student, rented her locker at the beginning of last semester and was sharing it with her roommate, Shiv MacFarlane, a computer science major.
In January, the locker was accidentally rented to another student who began using it. Initially both parties were unaware that the other had access to the same locker. It was not discovered by Moore and MacFarlane until they found a note in the locker from the other person telling them not to use it, and they later had their belongings removed.
At first the parking and transportation office was unclear on how the situation occurred, but Stefan Durston, department manager, investigated and found that it was the result of human error, not a problem with the electronic system that manages locker rentals and has safeguards to prevent a similar situation.
Because the printer was unavailable on the day that the second person rented the locker, the locker number and combination were written on a card rather than printing them out from the system, and the clerk accidentally wrote the wrong information.
However, the locker rental system has now been moved online, so students will be able to rent their lockers and receive the combinations without physically going to the office. Because the opportunity for human error has been reduced, Durston said this particular problem is an isolated incident that is very unlikely to happen again.
A refund was issued to Moore for the remaining time left in the semester, and while she is now relatively satisfied with the resolution, MacFarlane said he still has some issues with the way the situation was handled.
“We printed our receipts and brought them to parking with Jeannine’s name on them, dates and signatures from the parking office and the code for the locker,” he said in a Facebook message. “They took our receipt and would not return it, and informed us that the locker was not ours and we should stay away from it.”
More missing pieces
In addition, MacFarlane said it was not immediately clear where their belongings had gone after being removed from the locker. Some of it was eventually found in the shredding bin of the security office, while other stuff was never located.
Spring said that overall, locker break-ins are rare at Mount Royal. While Moore and MacFarlane were at least able to discover why and how their issue occurred, Webster is not expecting to see his stolen items again. They were not expensive, but they were definitely needed — after all, it is pretty hard to survive winter in Calgary without a coat.
“That’s what made me the most upset,” he said. “You can take money, even my wallet, but my winter coat? That’s pretty low.”