Stolen Items at Macquarie University’s Library: Who’s at Fault?

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Words || Antoine Saad

Books, iPads, electronics and many other valuable items are being stolen from students at the university library. Mr Haisam Jamal, the head of security at Macquarie University, says thefts are a recurring phenomenon that takes place every semester, and are especially prevalent during exam periods.

“I went to the bathroom for few minutes and came back to find that my Ipad was gone”, said Tasbir, a student who approached security soon after the theft. They were unable to help him as he was sitting in a “blind spot”. Melanie, another university student who left her items as she “didn’t want to lose the spot” when she went to get coffee, returned to her desk to find that her $100 power bank was gone. She claimed that students struggle to find a spot or desk during exam periods, resulting in unattended items.

Library staff and security officers say that the problem comes from students who choose to leave their belongings unattended, and not from the security office itself – ‘You are responsible for your own security,’ is one of the main messages Mr Jamal would like to stress.  But on several posts made to the Macquarie University’s Facebook page, students are blaming the security officers for not implementing higher safety and security standards in library. So who’s to blame?

When asked about library thefts and the limited space during busy periods, Mr Jamal said, “We do realise that everyone wants to use the library and there are not enough seats for all of them sometimes, but students need to take their stuff with them whenever they leave the desk. If you go for lunch for two hours and leave your stuff, don’t expect to come back and find them”. When asked for a solution to the problem he said that it is a matter of trust; “you just have to trust one of the students next to you and ask him or her to look after your stuff”.

Blind spots in the library were another topic discussed with Mr Haisam. He admitted that there are a lot of areas that don’t have cameras and the reason behind this was that the design and architecture of the library that contains a lot of edges and corners. When asked about the reason for not putting more CCTV, he said, “the cost is too high. The university cannot afford that.”

Jamal proceeded to mention a project done by the university’s board four years ago under the name of ‘Tagging’. It consisted of students getting a tag on their electronics and valuable belongings, same as the tag on their student IDs. It allowed the police to track any stolen device through the chip that was in the tag. Unfortunately, this project did not continue as Haisam stated, “it was too expensive for the university”.

Brendan Krige, one of the library’s staff members, was also interviewed in regards to his thoughts on the issue. Krige took us on a tour around the library and identified the hanging signs and posters that mention that the “library assumes no responsibility to any left personal belonging”. He then gave us a brochure that mentioned that any personal property must not be left on the desk, in this case, the stuff will be placed on the floor so that other students may occupy the space.

Mr Jamal revealed that the process that students and security officers follow in case of robberies consists of students filling out an incident report and security officers completing and submitting their own report. Upon on the student’s request, the security may call the police and check the CCTV footage together. Either way, the police track the suspect and not the object, resulting in many students not retrieving their stolen items.

“If you value something, don’t leave it in the open view”, was Mr Haisam’s final message to all students, alongside with Mr Krige’s statement “we cannot watch twelve thousand people”. The message from the University’s library and security staff to all Macquarie University’s students is simple: keep your belongings with you otherwise you are to blame when they disappear.