ROCK HILL — Winthrop Universitys Campus Police had help from a free software program to find a stolen laptop and arrest a Rock Hill man in connection with the theft.
Omar Jamal Bey, 28, of Rock Hill, was arrested Wednesday night for possession of stolen property after police spent about three weeks investigating his association with a laptop taken from the Winthrop Coliseum in September.
Police say the laptop had a software program theyve dubbed as Operation CLAW (Computer or Laptop Anti-theft Watch).
After a rash of laptops were reported stolen on campus at the end of the 2011 academic year, Campus Police Chief Frank Zebedis said the university felt that students could benefit from free downloads of the software.
I said, Look, we have got to do something about this, he said.
Since then, he said, computer and laptop theft has been reduced by 77 percent at Winthrop.
Wednesdays arrest was the one first made in direct relation to Operation CLAW.
Not only can police track thieves with the software, but also Zebedis said promotion of the software acts as a deterrent to thieves.
After reporting a theft, the laptops owner or in this case, police officers can activate the software to obtain the exact location of the stolen computer.
After they triggered the software to indicate the laptop was stolen, police were notified the first time the computer was used, Winthrop Sgt. Charles Yearta said.
The software showed Winthrop officers that the stolen computer was connected to an unsecured Wi-Fi connection near Piedmont Medical Center. The laptops webcam sent officers a photo of the person using the computer at the time.
Winthrop detective Sgt. Wes Wiles and Yearta found a teenage boy using the laptop, playing online games, in a home near Piedmont Medical Center.
The boys father bought the laptop on the street from Bey, less than 24 hours after Bey took the computer from the Coliseum, police say.
Bey isnt charged with petty theft, Yearta said, because no one actually saw him steal the laptop from the Coliseum but they have charged him with receiving stolen property.
Bey admitted Wednesday during an interview, Yearta said, that he did sell the stolen computer.
Winthrop Police have nine reports showing charges against Bey dating to 2006. He has been issued a trespass citation barring him from visiting certain parts of Winthrops campus.
Bey been charged by Winthrop Police with petty larceny for stealing, among other items, clothes from the mens basketball locker room and a womens basketball playbook. He also was charged with stealing a Honda Accord from the Coliseum parking lot in 2007.
Rock Hill Police records show that Bey was arrested twice in 2006 once for burglary and once for stealing from a car. He was arrested in 2008, according to a Rock Hill Police report, for breaking into Happy Garden on Anderson Road and stealing the restaurants cash register and $500.
Winthrop offers a direct link on the Campus Polices website for its students, faculty and staff to download CLAW.
Yearta said there is other software available online for anyone and some programs are free. Laptop and other electronic tracking software includes Prey, LoJack, GadgetTrak and programs offered by Apple and Android for phones and other devices.
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068