UW police utilizing new technology to cut down on laptop thefts

Police say thieves stealing laptops is the number one crime problem on the U.W. campus, as there were 30 reported thefts in just the first six months of this year. In 2010, the number of laptops stolen jumped 20 percent. Now, police are utilizing new technology to battle this problem, and recover these stolen computers.

The price of laptops continues to fall, but it's not the hardware that thieves want - it's the data contained inside: things like bank account information, computer programs and downloaded media. Police say some thieves specifically target laptops, whereas other instances are considered crimes of opportunity.

"We have incidents where the laptop is left unattended in the library, when a student goes to make a phone call or use the bathroom.

Now, police have teamed up with the Computer Sciences Department, and developed Themis, and the Bait Laptop Program. Themis is an asset location program that relies on the computer's GPS and other sensors to track the machine. The program has been loaded on laptops that will be dispersed throughout campus. As soon as a laptop is fired up, the program starts running and will begin to transmit information, and let police know the laptop is on the move.

"As soon as the laptop fires up, it will snap a picture," UW Police Detective Shane Driscoll said.

Police can then track the laptop to within feet of its location, and when combined with a snapshot of the thief, the odds of recovering the laptop increase dramatically.

Jingesh Patel and one of his undergraduate assistants wrote the program.