Not everyone abides by the Aggie Honor Code. There are people in the world who make a living by stealing other people’s property and selling it. As safe as the city you are in appears, there may come a time in which your belongings seem to get up and walk away.
My backpack was stolen last week. It contained my laptop, calculator, flash drive, class notes, homework. Everything. Gone.
For a college student, backpacks basically carry our entire lives. I hope this post will encourage you to regularly back up your work and documents, make yourself a difficult target by never leaving important items unattended, and help you be better suited to handle the situation if you’re ever the unfortunate victim of theft.
- Don’t leave anything unattended that you don’t want to lose.
Leaving your stuff for any period of time makes it vulnerable for theft. Parking your car in what appears to be a “safe” area is not enough. If you know you’re going to leave, take everything you value with you. Covering your items or putting them in the trunk of your vehicle is usually a go-to response, but sometimes that is not enough.
- If you must keep something in your car, hide it or put it in the trunk well before you arrive at your location.
This should be a last resort. Stop at a gas station some 20 blocks or so away and hide your stuff. Handling your items shows the world exactly what you have, and someone could be watching.
- Back up all of your digital files.
Consider investing in an external hard drive and regularly backing up all of your files.
- One more time: Back up your RESEARCH AND ALL OF YOUR WORK.
Maybe having an extra hard drive isn’t enough. Save it to a network storage system if your lab has it! Save it to Google Drive or Dropbox or any cloud service! Save early, save often, save redundantly! Imagine having to rerun tests because you lost your data or having to rewrite a good chunk of a journal paper or thesis.
- Don’t keep sensitive information on your laptop or flash drive.
If you must, password protect everything. There is also software available that can be used to encrypt files or entire harddrives
- Keep your electronics password protected, and don’t keep passwords saved for online accounts.
Such as Facebook, banking, or email. In the case your laptop or phone is stolen, immediately change all passwords you might have saved.
- Write your name and phone number on EVERYTHING you own.
Free engraving is offered by the College Station Police Department. Practice your penmanship. Learn to embroider. This greatly increases the chance of your items finding their way back to you.
- Keep a record of the make, model, and serial numbers of all electronics.
This also increases the chances of getting your stuff back. Also record how much the item would cost to replace.
- Keep a backup of your paper planner
If you’re the type of person who keeps all of their important appointments and deadlines in a small book, you might want to consider having another copy or taking pictures of it regularly. Imagine how your life would be if you lost it.
- If you do happen to experience a burglary, here are some first steps to take:
- Breathe. Take a minute to calm down.
- Call the police and file a report. Sometimes if it is a burglary from a motor vehicle, they can take your statement over the phone. Make sure you know the location, the approximate time it occurred, the items you lost and their approximate value. You will also need a case number if you file a claim with insurance. (Bonus tip: If you have homeowner’s insurance or are on your parents’ homeowner insurance, the plan might extend to cover some cost of your stolen items.)
- Look around and see if there are any cameras or if there might have been a bystander who witnessed the robbery.
- Take pictures if possible. Always a good idea when insurance is involved.
- While vehicle windows are made of tempered safety glass, it is still possible to get cut by a small shard or get a piece lodged in your eye. Therefore, I would not recommend driving the vehicle, especially if the driver’s window is broken. Check if your insurance will cover the cost of having your car towed. (Plus, driving with an open window while there is glass everywhere is not a good idea.) If you have to patch up your window, cardboard and heavy duty tape work a lot better than a trashbag.
I’m not the first person this has happened to, and I know I won’t be the last. Backpacks are easy to carry and usually hold expensive electronics, making them a target for thieves. Hopefully this post provided tips to prevent this from happening to you and helpful information on how to cope if it does.
Kelsey Fieseler | Mechanical Engineering
is a first-year Master’s student in Mechanical Engineering from Sugar Land, Texas.