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New software lets Winthrop police track down stolen laptops

Winthrop University's Police Department is taking steps to decrease campus laptop theft with Operation CLAW, a recovery program available to students, faculty and staff.

Police Chief Frank Zebedis introduced the program this week.

"I think this program is a good way to protect your computers and can be a deterrent to laptop theft," he said.

He said laptop theft tends to be a problem toward the end of the academic year when students are moving.

Between six and eight laptops were reported stolen in May. None of those cases was solved. Zebedis asked some officers to research the concept of Operation CLAW - Computer or Laptop Anti-theft Watch - and how they could use it at the university.

The free program lets the police department track and gather information from a laptop once it is reported stolen, as long as the user has first downloaded and activated Prey tracking software. When the laptop is connected to the Internet, the software provider is able to get an IP address, which police can then use to find the location of the stolen item.

With the program, recovering stolen laptops is more likely, Zebedis said. He also thinks it could be a deterrent to potential thieves.

Though there isn't a way to determine how many people at Winthrop already have downloaded the software, Zebedis said he hopes people will take advantage of it.

"Folks think it is a great idea, especially parents," he said. "I presented the idea to parents at the freshmen orientations, and they all seemed to think it was great idea."

Wiseman Chimbani is a student pursuing a master's degree in accounting. He received an email about the software at the start of classes this week and plans to register his laptop soon.

"It's going to help, definitely, because not only will it notify police immediately, but they can act promptly," he said.

Freshman graphic design major Anna McCall said she thinks it's a good idea.

"I'll probably download it when I've got time," she said.

But with her hectic schedule, she said, it probably would have been easier if students had known to download it during the summer.

In addition to downloading the program, the campus community is encouraged to register laptops with the police department. Once registered, the number is stored in a database so that if the laptop is recovered the owner can be notified more easily.

How to protect your laptop

Download Operation CLAW by visiting the Winthrop University Campus Police website at www2.winthrop.edu/campuspolice.

Register your laptop with campus police.

Secure your laptop by locking doors or hiding it.

If your laptop is stolen on campus, report it immediately by calling 803-323-3333.

Compiled from the campus police website

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