Union activities centre burgled for second time in six months
The Activities Centre was burgled for the second time in six months on Wednesday 2 March, resulting in two stolen laptops and damages to the office worth an estimated £2,000.
This follows just three weeks from the break-in of the Finance Office in Falmer House, although on that occasion nothing was stolen.
The safe in the Activities Centre was targeted but not successfully opened, and several locked desk drawers had been forced open with the use of tools from the office toolbox.
The burglary was discovered at 5.30am by one of the cleaners who then notified security. A university spokesman stated: “Security staff attended immediately and contacted the police. The security staff then liaised with staff based in the building when they turned up for work, and kept the office locked for the police. Security staff also retained property which they believed had been interfered with.”
Sussex police arrived on site the following day, on the morning of Thursday 3 March.
In August last year a Mac computer was stolen from the Activities centre. In the most recent incident last Wednesday, it is believed the burglar, or burglars, entered through the neighbouring photocopying room, pushed through the dividing panel at the top of the wall and kicked open the door into the main office.
An Assistant Director of the Union Mike Riley said: “It must have been done by someone who knows the office space well, to know how to get in that way… They must have been looking for cash.” He added that this is the fourth break-in since he started his job seven years ago.
Each desk in the office also contains a USB camera worth £100 apiece. While none was taken, one had been removed from its casing, which the police will use to scan for fingerprints.
Michaela Rossmann, the union Volunteering Development Co-ordinator, was one of two staff members who had a laptop stolen from her workspace. Like her colleagues, she was not allowed to enter her office until 2pm that day. She said: “It definitely set my work back. Our work for Project V is only on my computer and [another colleague’s], so we lost a few hours which was annoying.”
She added: “I think it would be really useful to have cameras outside the office. It should definitely have more security”. Currently the only area in Falmer House which operates a CCTV system is Falmer Bar on the ground floor.
The Head of Security at the university, Roger Morgan, said: “I am already in discussion with managers in the Students’ Union about a review of security arrangements for the whole of Falmer House.
“I fully understand that these sorts of incidents can be upsetting but they are very rare. The building, and the university as a whole, is generally very safe and secure.”
During week days Falmer House is open until 11pm, including access to the photocopying room which is used by societies for free.
However due to the break-in for the next few weeks the photocopying room will be closed from 5pm.
Union Activities Officer, Scott Sheridan, said: “It is going to cause a huge inconvenience for students and it’s such a shame that we’re going to have to reduce accessibility [for people who use the photocopier].”
Jess Duxbury, SUDS Publicity Officer, said: “To not be able to use the photocopy room is a serious disadvantage, particularly when our plays for this term are mid-way through their runs. The effect on the Activities Office itself is more concerning. The office, and everyone in it, are our go-to problem solvers and help us with pretty much everything in our society. Having a break-in such as this is very damaging and I only hope that it is able to get back to its usual society life-line very soon.”
Mike Riley estimated that the photocopying room will remain closed for at least two weeks, while it could take up to a month for “everything to return to normal”.
If anybody has any information regarding the theft – or any criminal activity on campus – they should contact the security office in York House or call (67)8234 (3333 in an emergency). Alternatively they can contact Sussex Police directly on 0845 60 70 999.