iPods start another trend: theft

Nicole Stempak

Chris Richards, junior musical theatre major, didn’t think twice about leaving his coat in the rehearsal room during a performance of “Urinetown.” While he was gone, both his wallet and MP3 player were stolen from his coat pocket.

Richards never had a problem leaving his belongings in the rehearsal room before, he wrote in an e-mail.

“It is a relatively safe place to leave items,” he said. “Usually it’s only ‘theatre kids’ in there, and we are all friends.”

Richards’ story isn’t unusual.

A recent study by the Urban Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research and educational organization, proposed America may have experienced an “iCrime” wave the past two years.

According to the study, FBI statistics from 2005 and 2006 show violent crime increased nationally for the first time in 14 years. The study found the most concentrated increase was in robberies.

The term “iCrime” was coined “to describe the phenomenon of electronic gadgets being taken by force or threat of force,” said John Roman, co-author and senior researcher for the Urban Institute.

Although the study is based on muggings from national crime data, Roman said the findings are still relevant to thefts on college campuses.

“Potential thieves know that there are a lot more expensive things to steal now than there were five years ago,” he said.

Since the beginning of the school year, nine portable media devices have been reported stolen to the Kent State University Police Department, including a display from the KSU Apple Store.

“The theft of iPods don’t seem to be a significant problem here,” crime prevention officer Alice Ickes said. Then again, “we only know about what is reported to us.”

An increase in theft often follows the release of new electronic equipment, she said.

“We saw it with cell phones. Now they’re much more common, there are fewer thefts. We saw it with calculators, too,” she said.

One possible explanation for the thefts: accessibility.

A thief can easily find a target on college campuses because of the popularity of iPods and MP3 players, Ickes said.

Michelle Lunz, freshman fashion merchandising major, is one such victim.

According to the police report, her iPod nano was stolen from her room. Lunz and her roommate invited a few high school basketball players into their room, but then an estimated 15 players entered the room. The players began “looking at and commenting about their property,” according to the police report. The girls persuaded the players to leave a few minutes later.

Lunz didn’t realize her iPod was missing until she was going to bed around 1 a.m., she said.

“The police officer said there probably was no chance that I would get my iPod back,” she said.

Ickes said the best way to prevent iPod theft is to eliminate the opportunity for theft.

“Close and lock doors and keep your valuables out of sight,” she said.

Lunz has since replaced her iPod, but said she will not forget the experience.

“It was an eye-opener because it made me realize that I can’t leave my stuff laying around and can’t let anyone I don’t know into my room,” she said.

Contact general assignments reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected].