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Recent campus incidents highlight security in academic buildings

Given access and time, someone took a projector from its home on the ceiling of a basement classroom.

There have been several security breaches at academic buildings recently, including an assault at Hill Hall last week and a theft at Carroll Hall on March 18 that involved a projector being taken down from its mounting hardware on the ceiling.

“Every once in a while we’ll see things walk out the door,” said David Alexander, director of Information Technology Services for Carroll Hall.

Alexander responded to the initial report of the missing projector in Carroll that was ultimately reported stolen. He said there are security measures in place, but the building can still be vulnerable to theft.

“If somebody wants something badly enough, they’re going to take it,” he said.

Alexander said the One Card readers on the exterior doors track who comes into the building after hours, but the system isn’t perfect.

“There are still ways to defeat that,” he said. “But it at least gives you some sense of who is entering.”

Alexander is looking into increasing the security at Carroll to better protect against costly thefts, especially in classroom labs.

“You have to worry about not just the equipment but also the data that’s on it,” he said.

Alexander said departments can purchase insurance through UNC’s plan but that it usually doesn’t cover small items, such as a projector.

Randy Young, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said thefts from academic buildings are fairly common. He said DPS receives more reports of stolen items from academic buildings than residence halls.

“We have hundreds of academic buildings on campus, and many are multi-story,” he said. “There’s a limited number of residence halls.”

Young said the nature of technology has made it easier for someone to walk out of a building with valuable equipment. He said it’s suspicious to walk across campus carrying a desktop but that as technology has gotten smaller, UNC has become more vulnerable.

“Never has there been more value residing in small packages,” he said.

Jim Clinton , director of card operations at UNC’s One Card office, said the department that occupies each building determines the building’s schedule for locking the main doors.

“Any time you have buildings unlocked, you’re going to be exposed to those things,” he said.

Clinton said each department also determines who has access to the building once the doors are locked. He said some buildings give faculty and staff access while other buildings allow students to gain access.

Paul Cole , building facilities manager for Hill Hall, said the building is open to music majors and minors and ensemble members after hours so they can utilize the basement practice rooms.

“We have signs in the practice rooms urging students to always lock their practice room door, not to open their door to strangers and to report suspicious persons or incidents to campus police,” Cole said in an email.

Cole said problems can arise when students use their One Card to swipe in at night but allow someone else to “piggyback” through. He said they want to be polite and not shut a door in someone’s face.

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“But unfortunately that’s what you have to do sometimes for this type of system to work properly,” he said.

Sarah Haines, a freshman music major, said it’s common for students to practice in Hill Hall as late as midnight.

“People like to practice,” she said. “People are always there usually.”

She said most of the valuable equipment in Hill Hall is large and could be difficult to steal, but it could happen.

“If you saw a random person walking out with a keyboard, you might question it,” she said. “But if it’s in the middle of the night, it might be pretty easy.”