Looking Back: Projector thieves steal almost $30,000 worth of equipment

Bridget Janis, Staff Reporter

Projectors are used in virtually every classroom as a tool to help teach students. However, thieves 18 years ago did not see them as a tool, but instead saw them as a quick cash grab.

Four projectors from various rooms in Varner, Dodge and Elliot Halls were stolen in the fall of 2001. The thief stole $27,200 worth of projectors between the nights of Nov. 25 and 27, 2001.

There was also another projector in 225 Hannah Hall that was not stolen but did show signs of being tampered with.

“We had an attempt in Hannah Hall,” then OUPD Lieutenant Mel Gilroy said. “The folks over in IT did some investigating and discovered that a piece of equipment had been tampered with. We will take that one and try to develop investigative leads.”

With the projectors missing, the professors and students that were assigned to these classrooms were out of luck without the proper teaching equipment.

“We don’t have a lot of money to replace these things,” then Manager of Instructional Technology Center George Preisinger said.

The mystery of the investigation was how the thieves were able to reach the projectors and work through all the wires attached.

“We do have a potential suspect we are trying to work up right now… who is being fingerprinted,” Gilroy then said.

About a week after the theft, two of the projectors were replaced with mobile projectors. According to Preisinger “because some of the cabling was damaged, we had to pull some new (cables) in the room.”

Also, Preisinger and a team of people began to work on new security measures for the buildings and creating more secure rooms at OU.

Oakland was lucky over the years to not have many thefts. “The last theft was 10 years ago in 201 Dodge and it was a set of speakers,” Preisinger then said.

After the new year, in early January 2002 there was a possible eye witness that was brought in to be questioned. From the witness’ statements, the police had two suspects’ composite sketches.

“I was notified by Tom Ford, who has a class in 225 Hannah Hall that one of his students was going to class early to study until it started,” Detective David Birkholz at the time said. “The student saw a black female sitting at the table (outside of the classroom) and noticed that she (one of the alleged suspects) was paying a lot of attention to her.”

One suspect was described as a black female in her early twenties with over-the-shoulder length hair and small round frame glasses. The other suspect was described as a black male in his early twenties with a height between 5’7” and 5’10”.

“I think that with these drawings there will be a break in this case,” Birkholz said then.

These suspects were the ones who allegedly tampered with the projector in 225 Hannah Hall, on the same day of the other thefts. OUPD believed they could have also been responsible for the other four stolen projectors.