Keep an eye on your electronics — especially the portable kind.
A rash of laptop thefts across St. John has residents on their toes and holding on tightly to their iBooks and Dells.
“Someone broke into our house and all they took were two laptops,” said one recent victim of electronic theft. “The laptops were definitely targeted and the theft occurred really quickly. They didn’t have much time.”
“To me it seems they knew about the laptops and came in and just grabbed them,” the victim continued. “I found it extraordinarily odd that nothing else was taken.”
A police report was made, but V.I. Police Department officers never finger-printed the crime scene in an attempt to identify the perpetrator, the victim ex-plained.
No Vehicle Necessary
Laptops are easy to cart away from a crime scene on foot, which makes them easy targets, added another St. John resident who recently had her laptop stolen.
“Our home was broken into and all they took was my laptop and one piece of jewelry,” said the resident. “They took my laptop and walked off with it. These are portable things and I suspect the burglars were on foot.”
Once again VIPD officers did not test for fingerprints at the scene, the resident explained.
“Of course, we never got any response from the police — no fingerprints or anything,” said the resident. “I think there were about five other people in my neighborhood who got robbed at the same time and nothing was done.”
Laptops seem to be specifically targeted by these techno-thieves, according to yet another victim of theft.
Scoping Out Laptops
“I set my laptop up in my office in town on a Saturday afternoon and left it for only a half an hour in a locked office,” said the now laptop-less Love City resident. “Someone must have picked the lock and broken into the office and all they took was the laptop. They didn’t take the power tools that were sitting there or cameras that were right there, too.”
“They only took the laptop and they took the time to take the case and the power cord that was nearby but not the valuable power tool, battery pack and charger,” the resident continued. “It was obvious that whoever stole it was scoping the place out.”
Despite continued advancements in technology, the only defense against laptop theft is expensive software, according to computer expert Will Culver, owner of Surf da Web.
“Unfortunately in most of the thefts there’s nothing you can do, unless the customer buys software or has a plan,” Culver said. “For instance, IBM had a plan where, in the event your notebook was stolen they could remotely access it and remove all the data on it.”
“Service contracts like that, however, are very expensive,” Culver continued.
While many laptops do have identification numbers, these can easily be changed and do not ensure security, Culver explained.
“Serial numbers can be changed or erased all together,” said Culver. “Most of the time these laptops are being taken to St. Thomas and being ripped apart. They aren’t staying in the area, so they won’t be easy to track.”
There is one thing everyone can do — keep the their laptop nearby at all times.
Keep Laptop In Sight
“My recommendation — and what I do — is use your laptop and bring it with you,” said Culver. “If I go out of my house, I bring my laptop with me. I never let my laptop out of my sight.”
One of the victims agreed.
“I don’t leave my laptop at home now,” said the resident. “I carry my laptop with me where ever I go.”
Other victims have taken different approaches.
“We’ve installed an alarm system in our house now,” said another victim of laptop theft. “We don’t want to take any chances.”
“I’m going to make it harder for thieves to get into my home in the first place,” said another resident.
Even people who use wi-fi have been targeted, Culver added.
“I had a notebook stolen from my business when I first opened,” said Culver. “I went out to my truck and they just took the notebook right out of my business.”
“If you are using your laptop in a wireless environment and have to use the bathroom or something, I would recommend that you buy a lock so you can lock your notebook to a table,” Culver continued. “That way, the thief has to take the whole table with them.”
While VIPD spokesperson Shawna Richards did not have any information specifically about the recent rash of laptop thefts, she offered some general information about securing one’s home.
Secure Valuables, Cut Shrubs
“We recommend that all Virgin Islanders secure all of their valuables including jewelry and electronic equipment,” said Richards. “Residents should make a list of all their valuables and make notes of the serial numbers. Taking photos of your possessions is another good idea, so the equipment can be identified in the event the items are recovered.”
Residents should be sure that all doors and windows at their homes are properly locked and keep their shrubbery trimmed, Richards added.
“If you are going out, lock your door,” said Richards. “Keep the shrubbery around your doors and windows cut, so neighbors can see. If people can’t see your home, then concerned citizens who participate in our neighborhood watch programs can’t report it when something happens.”
Safety Important, Even In V.I.
The Virgin Islands are just like any other place, and residents here are just as susceptible to crime, Richards continued.
“While we appreciate our significance as America’s paradise, we strongly suggest that our safety practices and habits do not change because we’re living in the Virgin Islands,” said Richards.