Volume 11, Number 14 March 19, 2004

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Mid-day thieves hit campus labs; glassware now kept locked up

A series of brazen thefts from campus laboratories earlier this year has authorities suggesting that employees be vigilant, and that glassware be kept under lock and key.

Special Constable Paul Smith with Security Services said a number of incidents over the course of several weeks resulted in the loss of up to 300 test tubes from labs in the Health Sciences Building. Since then, glassware has been stored more securely, but some staff are left wondering if the thefts might be connected to the illegal production of the drug crystal methamphetamine.

According to Smith and Mary Woodsworth, a lab co-ordinator in the department of microbiology and immunology, the perpetrators were young men who entered the building first to purchase glass tubing from Medical Stores which they said they needed for an art project. When they returned to buy more, they were denied and so turned their attention to the labs.

Woodsworth said the men were spotted several times during the day wearing different coats, including lab coats apparently stolen from the department of physiology. When confronted in microbiology, they said they were looking for boxes because they were moving, a “very plausible” explanation for their presence. In fact, the boxes were being used to transport test tubes out of the lab.

The thieves were recognized by a staff member who had seen them in the lab earlier, Woodsworth said, and security was called.

Smith said four separate incidents of test tube theft were reported, and Security Services and Saskatoon City Police did detain one suspect. He agreed to return the materials, but failed to do so and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Constable Chad Coles with the Saskatoon Integrated Drug Unit said in an interview it is unlikely the test tubes are used in the actual production of crystal meth. For that, larger condensing vessels are required. He has, however, seen the drug transported in glass tubes, and also speculated that the stolen tubes might be melted and remade into the glass pipes needed to smoke the drug.

Woodsworth said the department’s media room is now kept locked. “Just about everybody who needs to get in has a key so it’s about all we can do – we still have to work here.” Smith said all lab employees should exercise caution, pointing out that young thieves can easily blend in on a university campus.glassware now kept locked up

Up to 300 test tubes have been stolen from Health Sciences Building labs this year.
Photo by Colleen MacPherson

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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