UC Berkeley students, faculty concerned over string of lab burglaries

Mary Zheng/Staff
UCPD held a safety meeting Wednesday afternoon.

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Thousands of dollars in goods have been stolen from laboratories on the UC Berkeley campus, causing worry among the faculty and students who work at the labs.

In the last few months, faculty and students have reported a series of similar break-ins and burglaries in Wellman Hall, Giannini Hall and Hilgard Hall. The perpetrator, or perpetrators, apparently gained access to each lab by smashing windows before allegedly stealing thousands of dollars of equipment including monitors, laptops and computers, said Ron Amundson, chair of the environmental science, policy and management department, which is located in Hilgard Hall.

At a safety presentation by UCPD Wednesday afternoon, a sense of fear pervaded the atmosphere, particularly among students and faculty who work in the laboratories late at night, often alone. Many expressed concern that despite UCPD efforts, the burglaries persist.

“This does not inspire confidence among those of us who have worked in these buildings,” said Brad Balukjian, a graduate student in the ESPM department.

General efforts taken by UCPD to improve safety, said officer Wade MacAdam during the presentation, include clustering officers near the buildings where crimes have occurred and evaluating possible deficiencies in the security of these buildings. Graveyard shift officers also regularly walk through buildings, patrol the campus late at night and speak with building managers about safety protocols, MacAdam said.

The department of environmental science, policy and management is also currently reviewing measures to deter theft, including reinforcing panes of glass with Plexiglas, installing cameras in each laboratory and retrofitting the halls with a card-key system, said Amundson.

The problem is that the enhanced security measures would cost more than $100,000, and Amundson said that he and campus Vice Chancellor of Facilities Service Ed Denton are currently discussing sharing costs between the department, college and campus.

In the meantime, one student who requested anonymity out of fear of being targeted, said that it even seemed like the perpetrator of the crimes was targeting each lab in Hilgard Hall, as if burglary is inevitable in all of them.

“There’s certainly concern about staying here at night,” Amundson said.