A dramatic first-hand story of a UH Manoa grad student’s brush with a sophisticated campus burglar was circulating in the College of Social Sciences yesterday.
He returned to his office in the Geography Department on the 4th floor of Saunders Hall around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday night and chased a man seen coming out of his office.
Here’s his account as circulated by college officials (I’ve made some minor edits).
As I was entering my office, just after turning the key, a tall guy in blue (maybe 6 feet) pushed past me, saying “Excuse me.”
After my initial shock at there being anyone emerging from my locked office, I gave chase to the burglar. He ran down the hall in the direction of the department lounge, then turned left and took the stairwell down. I was yelling at him to stop, got close about a floor down, and grabbed his left sleeve. The sleeve ripped off, but this delayed him a little bit, so my next grab was for a backpack that he carried. I was worried it was mine. I again yelled at him to stop, but he got away. I have a few bruises and scrapes from the chase, but am otherwise okay.
I took the backpack to my office and immediately called UH campus security. Before campus security arrived, I searched the bag to see if the burglar had identification in it, or if he had any of my stuff. I did not see any ID or anything that belonged to me. I took some pictures of the items in the backpack before campus security came. They (campus security) were there in about 5 minutes. They took my statement, and then called HPD. HPD also inspected the scene of the crime and the contents of the backpack.
In the backpack were an assortment of burglary tools – different kinds of pliers, 3 hacksaws, many, many different sizes of tiny screwdrivers (apparently for picking locks), rubber things to put on your fingers to avoid leaving fingerprints, gatorade and water, 2 or 3 spray canisters of liquids, and two electronic devices that all of us were curious about.
After HPD and campus security examined the devices (one of the attached pictures shows the two together), they figured that one of the devices had a photocell sensor that sends a signal to the other device. The other device, which apparently had a range of up to 100 feet, sounded an alarm when it got the signal from the device with the photo sensor, kinda like the sound that you hear when you enter some 7-11 stores or gas station convenience stores.
One of the campus security guys proposed that the photo sensor sent the signal anytime the lights were turned on in the room. Having thought about it a little bit, it seems to me more reasonable for a burglar to have the sensor trigger the signal anytime the lights were turned off. That way, if the burglar was nearby (say in the lounge or in the hall), they would know that the occupant of the office had just left. Anyway, that’s just my guess…I’m no expert on this stuff.
The first device was fitted inside a casing that was a white electrical outlet box. The second device (the receiver) had earphones attached, presumably to muffle the alarm triggered by the signal from the other device.
Anyway, I just thought I’d warn everyone that we have some sophisticated burglars prowling Saunders. Please don’t leave your valuables in your office, and look out for extra devices that may appear in or around your office space. They might be planting these things in these offices and then waiting nearby for the moment that you step out. Just a thought.
Whew. Phony electrical outlets planted as burglar alarms in reverse! Are many off-campus burglars this sophisticated?