Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 22, 2022

Thefts spur new Gilman classroom access plan

By Elizabeth Arenz | January 31, 2013

In response to the spike in laptop thefts occurring in Gilman Hall, the University has enacted a new access plan for pooled classrooms in the building.

The school announced on Jan. 24 that it would be locking all classrooms controlled by the Registrar beginning on Fridays at 5 p.m., and that these classrooms will now only be accessible by those in possession of a J-Card.

Kate Pipkin, Director of Communications and Marketing for the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, said that this higher security is a result of the rise in thefts that has taken place over the past several months.

“We’ve seen an uptick in thefts, particularly of computers from Gilman, where security wires have been cut, so this is a response to that uptick. The mechanism where you swipe your card was already outside these classrooms and have now been turned on full time,” she said.

Pipkin explained that the University has observed a positive response to the change and noted that only classrooms used broadly across campus are restricted by this new plan.

“Some classrooms fall under various departments and have not been as much of a problem, but the pooled classrooms are not locked as often when not in use,” she said.

Sophomore Tiffany Lin offered some support for the new system, though she was skeptical of whether the problem would be completely solved.

“I think that often the thefts are occurring between students and people who already have J-Cards, so it may be unnecessary. But if the laptops are being stolen by people unconnected to the school, then it’s an easy measure of security for the school to implement. It’s a good first step because Gilman is a great place for students to study and should remain open to them. Limiting access is a reasonable response to what has happened,” Lin said.

Pipkin shared that the thefts are believed to have been committed by external individuals, asserting that this solution is a simple, effective, and relatively inexpensive one.

“Though I don’t know that anything we could do is 100 percent secure, these locks are pretty secure, and as the rooms are now only available to internal people in possession of J-Cards, if something does happen, we can track which J-Cards have been used to enter the classrooms,” Pipkin said.

Regarding the possibility of returning stolen laptops to their owners, Pipkin indicated that computers may have been found at a local pawn shop by the Baltimore Police Department and that an investigation is still ongoing.

Although the Milton S. Eisenhower Library is also open to the public, thefts there have been far fewer according to Deborah Slingluff, Associate Director for User Services at the Sheridan Libraries.

“None of the recent thefts have been from the library, and if they have been, it has been very unusual,” Slingluff said.

With a driver’s license, members of the general community can gain access to the Sheridan Libraries from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and by purchasing borrowing privileges, they may check out materials. The older study rooms in the library do not have the same technology as those located in Brody Learning Commons, where individuals need a J-Card to gain entry.

Computer thefts have been on the rise, not just in places of study, but all across the Homewood campus. Freshman Kaye Weinstein’s laptop was stolen out of her backpack when she accidentally left in it the Fresh Food Café overnight shortly before the start of reading period.

“When I came to get it the next day, my laptop had been taken out, and though I reported what had happened to security, they did very little to investigate. I also called to follow up, but they hadn’t made any progress and my laptop has still not been found,” Weinstein said.

This past Monday, another university-wide email was sent reporting the arrest of a non-Hopkins affiliate suspected of stealing laptops from campus buildings. The man, who matched the description of a suspect wanted by the Baltimore Police Department, was carrying a bag holding wire cutting pliers as well as a screwdriver, and following his arrest, admitted to the theft of multiple computers on the Hopkins campus.

Lt. Mark Long, Campus Safety and Security Investigations Section Supervisor,  declined to comment on the ongoing police investigation regarding the suspect.

Though it is unclear at this time whether stolen laptops will be recovered, the University hopes its new access plans in Gilman will bring an end to the thefts.

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