Projector thefts prompt patent

University Police are still investigating a case where a $3,600 projector was stolen from a room in the Chemistry building Thursday. The Proxima computer projectors that are used to enhance students’ education have been a recent target for theft at USF and the department of Educational Outreach.

When the Physical Plant at USF learned about the theft increase in Proximas, a patent was designed and filed about three weeks ago for a security device that will prevent computer projectors from being stolen from Education Outreach and other departments in the future.

Mitch Fields, associate director for Physical Plant, said the security device is similar to a bracket that covers Proximas, computer projectors, that are mounted to ceilings in classrooms and auditoriums.

Fields said the security device attaches to the projectors and prevents anyone from unscrewing the bolts to remove the projector as was done in the past.

“It eliminates people from getting to the screws to remove (projectors),” Fields said.

Fields said the key shop at Physical Plant began developing and installing the security devices a month ago because of the high theft rate of Proximas in Educational Outreach.

The key shop found there was nothing being offered to help prevent these thefts, he said.

“The key shop thought they could help the department,” Fields said. “It seems to be working.”

Fields said Physical Plant should be notified next week whether they will receive the patent.

So far, it seems as if they will receive it, he said.

Fields said Physical Plant has been working with the University of North Florida so it can receive the security devices for their departments.

He said the security devices are designed by Physical Plant’s key shop, but they are taken to another company to be made and special ordered. Each bracket costs about $175, and USF provided the patent services to Physical Plant, said Fields.

Physical Plant paid for everything to be made, and at least 50 have been made so far, he said.

“We want to provide services to USF to reduce the number of thefts,” Fields said. “However, it will not prevent someone from tearing the equipment from the ceiling, it will just take extra time.”Susan Zucker, director of Instructional Technology for Educational Outreach, said Proxima theft has been a problem that universities across the nation have experienced.

“We are not being targeted alone,” Zucker said. “The reason we have the locks is to prevent them (Proximas) from being stolen.”

Zucker said the security brackets don’t affect the use of equipment, but it does make them inaccessible to thieves.David Baird, director for Business and Auxiliary Services in Educational Outreach, said they have permanently installed equipment in classrooms, but Proximas are still stolen.

Baird said they have made sure classroom doors are locked and have security cameras installed to help prevent thefts.

“The cameras are working because there are no thefts yet,” Baird said.

“It is a great inconvenience when equipment is no longer available.”

Baird said the property that is stolen makes it an inconvenience because portable equipment has to be used in classrooms.

And the equipment has to be replaced at a high expense – each Proxima costs about $2,500.

Sgt. Mike Klingebiel, spokesman for UP, said the audio-visual equipment became a target for theft about a year ago but wasn’t a problem before because it didn’t interact with computers then. Klingebiel said the equipment has become a target because now it can be used for home entertainment.

He said departments can protect equipment by keeping track of the location of their items at all times.

Klingebiel said property should also be locked up when it is not going to be used.

Computer equipment is easier to track when serial numbers are issued to the property because University Police can track the equipment by entering the numbers in a computer system, Klingebiel said.

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