I used to leave all of my stuff in the library’s rooms, because a) it was the university’s library; what bad things could happen there? And b) there are CCTV cameras on every corner and library staff on every floor, how can you steal anything with eyes regularly pointed at you? Apparently, really easily. On Halloween afternoon somebody stole my laptop and vanished into thin air. 

I was simply in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I left my laptop in the silent study room, probably the only space in the library without CCTV cameras (about which I didn’t know). Why? As Nigel Burnham (52), the Security Leader at DMU explained to me, it is due to the legal issues. For some reason, placing cameras in the room as such is the invasion of privacy, and this law cannot be tackled in any way really. Unfortunately, it creates a perfect environment to steal anything without being spotted. More than that, the only camera, which could capture any footage of the person with my laptop was moved that day (the CCTV company came to do some updates). Opportunity makes a thief they say. And makes fool out of you.

Credit: DMU

The words I’ve heard afterwards was not all supportive as I expected. When I was holding my tear ducts tight to prevent myself from embarrassing sobbing, one of the security staff within the library shared two thoughts with me. Firstly, that, ‘there are so many dodgy people in here’. Secondly, that ‘now you have a lesson to not leave your things around’. In effect, instead of cheering pep talk 

I was assured that the robbery is something common here and that is my fault to believe that the library is a safe space.

I got angry and frustrated that I got caught in feeling responsible for somebody else’s crime. I went the easy way to blame the DMU security system to be ineffective and helpless. Soon after, the police hugely contributed to the blame circle.

After a week from the accident, I got the last string of hope pulled out of me. A notification from Find My Mac informed me, that somebody tried to log into my computer. At 83 Charles Street. In Leicester. Still in the city centre, maybe my property was yet to be found! As I dialled the phone number to inform the police, my hands were sweating from excitement. The second I’ve heard the lady’s voice I gagged due to the information that was provided.

“We are not relying on Find My Mac information, as they are not accurate. You can send us the location via mail but to be honest, we probably won’t do much with it. If you want, you can go there yourself and see if you will find it,” *

*I made a complaint to the Leicestershire police. The lady had a disciplinary meeting and her work was monitored more closely.

I couldn’t believe I was hearing that from the police representative. That plus a lecture, with a quite ironic tone, about how the police don’t have enough resources to take care of emergencies, let alone looking for some laptop. 

Ashamed that I even dared to ask for help when I needed it, my last ounce of optimism that there is some fairness in this world had floated away, leaving me with one thought:

There’s no justice, no fairness and certainly no help when you need one. People like my personal mugger feel fearless and free to steal your things because no one is chasing after them. There are no ‘Law & Order’ episodes in reality. There’s just you, robbed, paranoid and hopeless. 

However, my desperate need to know things and the inability of letting go forced me to ask some questions. Why the security around campus is not intensified? Why (as I later found out), not only students can enter the library’s premises, but technically any random person? Why I cannot feel safe within the university, which ought to protect me?

I found answers on some of those questions.

According to security’s centre information, DMU has around 600 CCTV cameras around campus and additional night watch in every one of the buildings. Every person from the security staff is well trained (and usually with security or special forces related background). During Freshers Week the security’s stand is active, distributing leaflets and organising talks. The emergency contact number is available to students at all times, taking seriously any concerns one might have. Expanding the number of CCTV cameras or the staff is not as simple as it may sound – every university struggles with a budget and some cuts are unavoidable.

The number of students within the campus is an issue as well. DMU is one of the fastest-growing universities in the UK. Even with the enlarged number of security guards, it is hard to keep everyone safe (especially with a campus situated at the very heart of the city). It is especially difficult to do so when the students themselves taking some things for granted. And they don’t think about the consequences. 

My question about “how is it possible for ‘strangers’ to enter the library without an ID card” met a quite shocking answer from Mr Burnham.

Some students are ‘renting’ their cards for 20 or so pounds to non-students to enable them ‘do the work’ or they are just giving cards away to their colleagues.

How the library should be kept safe when there is a constant flow of students, non-students and strangers with no way to navigate if the card matches the owner?

Moreover, how we should keep ourselves safe when ignorance and carelessness is the new fashion? Of that, I am guilty myself. While doing my work in the library I paid almost no attention to who’s sitting next to me, what they leave on their desks and if somebody else is collecting those things, unspotted. When that happened to me, I was surrounded by people in the silent room. Yet, no one saw anything, they either said ‘I just came recently’ (even though I knew it wasn’t true) or ‘I didn’t see anything’. 

But what stroke me, even more, were their faces which seemed to tell me to bag off instead of showing the slightest sympathy. I hope none of you will ever feel such hopelessness and frustration that somebody invaded your privacy and yet there is no proof, no trace, no help. 

Either one like it or not, we are the DMU community. And each of us adds to this community. If we would just care more if we would just think ‘I wouldn’t like that happen to me’ and be aware of the impact our doings may have, wouldn’t that community feel more welcoming? Safer?

If you see anything suspicious, please don’t hesitate and talk with any library staff, the security desk or call:  (0116) 257 7642 (available 24 hours 365 days of the year). 

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