How easy is it to steal a laptop?

(File photo)
(File photo)

What would you do if you saw someone stealing a laptop on campus? With people all over campus with their noses in their textbooks studying, it’s a miracle that people notice anything that is going on around them. That certainly would seem to be enough incentive for anyone to steal an available laptop.

Two years ago, I went around Waterloo stealing bicycles to see how easy it would be and I was met with very little conflict. I assumed that the same would apply to stealing laptops on campus. As part of an experiment, The Cord filmed my thievery, with my friend Malvin playing the victim, and I soon discovered that it certainly posed a challenge.

The Science Atrium: The First Attempt

When we first arrived at the science atrium in the early evening, it was full of students who were trying to do some last minute studying for their midterms. This meant that at least one person would notice me trying to steal a laptop.  Malvin had set up his laptop on the table in the middle of the atrium. Five minutes after, he left pretending to be on the phone. This was when I entered. I thought that I was being pretty swift, trying not to make any eye contact with those who were sitting close by. Once I took the laptop, however, I was not as smooth.

Instinctively, I was looking around to see if Malvin was coming back, and being the first spot we were experimenting with, I didn’t have the best hiding spot. I inadvertently drew attention to the cameras because I was peering around the corner trying to see reactions of the students who were sitting close by. Alas, for a brief period of time, I did have two students named Steve and Mark convinced that I was legitimately stealing laptops.

When asked why they didn’t stop me when they saw me steal the laptop, Mark said, “I was in shock at first, I could see you looking and I didn’t know what to do.” The two men had planned to call after me and chase me down, but my conspicuous behaviour let them know that they were part of an experiment.

“If you had made a straight dart maybe I would have believed you were actually stealing the laptop,” Steve shared.

So if you don’t act guilty or make it obvious that you are up to no good, you could get away with stealing laptops in the science atrium.

Science Atrium: The Second Attempt
Learning from my mistakes in the first attempt, I decided to try stealing laptops again, only I entered from the back and had Malvin set up closer to the front of the atrium. Malvin once again walked away from the laptop pretending to be on his phone and I made my way over to the laptop.  A table of three girls witnessed me stealing the laptop and their reactions were ones that even I didn’t see coming.

“That’s not her laptop!” One girl had exclaimed. In a panic, I ran off with the laptop and the girls were initially in shock and debated briefly on what they had to do.

I was shocked when two of the three girls came running after me and yelling at me to come back with the laptop. Fearing the risk of getting caught in an unnecessary cat fight and the threat of getting into some serious legal trouble, I let these two girls catch up to me. I revealed that they had been part of an experiment, which they had been successful in.

The two girls were in absolute shock and I may have caused some heart damage there. To the two girls who came after me, I greatly apologize for the scare I gave you, but at least you made me believe in the kindness of strangers!

Business Atrium: The Final Attempt
Given the excitement of the last adventure with the laptop, I was expecting even more students in the business atrium to notice my thievery. Malvin sat in the middle of the atrium, with overcrowded tables full of students, some of which he actually knew.

Since the business atrium is much smaller than the science atrium, I had high hopes of getting a reaction from people. While Malvin was pretending to go off somewhere, I went into my seemingly normal routine of stealing his laptop.

When I went to grab the laptop, a cluster of papers somehow got caught up in the screen and I was fumbling to get them out. I was almost certain that someone would notice the ruckus that I had made. No one did. I walked out of there unnoticed.

When Malvin came back and he asked people if they had noticed whoever took his laptop, they all said that they didn’t see me and they advised him to call Special Constables.  Soon after, I came back with Malvin’s laptop and when I explained myself to the confused group of business students, one had said that he saw me take the laptop but he just “didn’t care”.

My hopes for humanity just went out the window.

If you do see someone stealing a laptop, don’t be a bystander. Call after them or try to catch them. However, if you are unable to do so, send a report to Special Constables and give as much description of the thief and the laptop as you can.


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