Schools, local authorities, the police and manufacturers are fighting back against one of the fastest growing crimes in education - data projector theft. Data projectors have become one of the biggest targets for thieves, not least because they are portable, expensive (typically around pound;1,500 each) and ideal for watching DVD films, computer games and major sporting events on a giant screen. Thanks to the national multi-million pound interactive whiteboard initiative, data projectors have been flooding into educational institutions - there are around 250,000 in schools today, with an additional half a million expected to be installed over the next few years. The burglary rate for data projectors is about 10 per cent, although in some areas it can reach 30 per cent - one primary school had a dozen stolen over a three-week period.
In response, local authorities are launching aggressive security campaigns.
The London Borough of Havering and Darlington County Council, for example, have equipped schools with hi-tech security mark systems and worked closely with the local police. Schools in areas such as Derbyshire, Dudley and Dorset have been issued with thousands of security mark etching kits.
Manufacturers are bringing out data projectors with extra security features. Sahara, for example, has launched The Protector, a bright orange model exclusively made for education, which cannot be operated if it is unplugged from the mains, unless a removable security panel is re-fitted (review p28). Getting insurance for a data projector can be difficult or expensive, so RM has launched a low-cost theft protection policy for schools.
But data projector theft isn't just about the money - there is a human cost involved too. "Children get so disillusioned when something like this happens," said Penny Patterson(left), Havering's general inspector for ICT.
"Why should children be deprived of their education just so someone can enjoy watching football? That isn't right."