Alan Covarrubias frantically looked for his MacBook Pro.
The first-year physiological science student set his laptop down in his Rieber Hall lounge for 15 minutes to get food during an event his resident assistant had organized last quarter. When he came back, it was gone.
Covarrubias is not the first student to have a laptop stolen. In the past year, 160 laptops were reported stolen at UCLA, said UCPD Capt. John Adams.
To reduce laptop thefts, UCLA now offers a free laptop protection software to students, faculty and staff. The software, which can be downloaded through frontdoorsoftware.com, comes with a four-year license for multiple computers.
The program uses GPS tracking to locate laptops. After a laptop is reported stolen, the program will also issue a loud, audible theft alert when the laptop is switched on. Students can choose from a pre-programmed audible alert or a personalized alert.
The user can also lock down the laptop remotely to protect personal information from another computer. On the computer’s login screen, the owner’s contact information is also displayed so the laptop can be returned to its original owner if found.
The university will pay an annual fee of less than $5,000 per year for the program, Adams said. The money comes from a grant from the Office of Insurance and Risk Management. The office will continue to provide funds for the program in the future, Adams said.
Kristina Sidrak, the Undergraduate Students Association Council’s internal vice president, said the university had been seeking ways to use current technology to cut down on crimes of opportunity.
Previously, the university’s main protection program was called S.T.O.P. Plate. The program, which cost $20, attaches a security plate that had a warning message to laptops and other electronic items.
The plate took 800 pounds of force to remove and would imprint the device a stolen property message if taken off. Sidrak said students were not taking full advantage of the existing security program.
As a result, the university sought to find a supplemental electronic, low-cost way to protect student, faculty and staff property, Adams said.
Adams contacted Front Door Software after listening to a presentation at an International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators conference and hearing about its early successes at Brown University and other colleges.
The electronic program has not been previously advertised since its initial launch late fall quarter.
Adams said he hopes the program will reduce theft and make UCLA less of a target-rich environment. If word gets out and the majority of students are using the software, thieves will go elsewhere to look for easy targets, Adams said.
“We’re not saying it’s 100 percent, but statistically, it’s in our favor,” Adams said.