[hackerspaces] Do your spaces have a theft problem? How do you deal with it?

Jaromil jaromil at dyne.org
Tue Jul 26 14:45:43 CEST 2011

re all,

On Tue, 26 Jul 2011, h0uz3 wrote:

> > Unfortunately, we have a shelter for drug-addicts across the
> > street.  They tend not to care too much about education, more
> > about breaking windows and quickly grabbing some stuff to fence
> > for their next shot.
> Well, this is indeed the kind of situation when heavily armed
> windows/doors and cam surveillance are your best friend. Protection
> against burglars is unfortunately necessary, some places need it
> more than others.

sadly, yes.

We have accumulated plenty of such experiences in the past.

The first Italian hacklab, the Freaknet in Catania, was burglarized
repeatedly by someone who was part of the social center (the squatted
building hosting the lab). Knowing who he was didn't helped either,
situation escalated, noone got hurt, yet some computers fly out of the
window and on the mid-term the hacklab moved out.

Solution: place your hackerspace in a self-standing situation (as
hackerspace patterns suggest) rather than mixing within a larger
situation, so to say being surrounded by entropy.

Lesson learned: even when you know who is the burglar, it is very
difficult to control your reaction and decide to do "something wise".

Another episode worth mentioning is the ASCII experience (more people
from that collective are reading i guess) where we had the ambitious
goal of creating free internet spaces on the street and also running
hackerspace-type research inside, resulting in a mix of street-level
access (open to the public at fixed times) but also a lab having some
interesting gear inside. Our spaces were squatted out of empty
locations, the last one was out of the city center, in Javastraat
which was then considered one of the streets with higher criminality
in Amsterdam.

ASCII in Javastraat was burglarized twice, despite a *police* camera
was placed right in front of its entry (which we protested of course,
but that's another story). After the first robbery we radically
changed the window by welding metal bars with glass in between. We
thought that was tight enough, but the second break in passed through
a slightly larger hole on the side of the window, presumably by a
humanoid body of the size of a 6 years old kid. shocking.

The decision taken by some of our members was to send a message to the
neighbourhood: two soldiers (full black-ops clothing) would stand in
front of the place all night, for a week or so, keeping the outpost. i
guess the neighborhood was impressed since there was no break in
anymore, yet i'm not sure that was a good measure either, fighting
violence with violence is risky and unsustainable on the long term.

Lessons learned: cameras don't help. and police neither does.

Possible solutions: fence place properly against all imaginable brute

my last word on the topic, what i've learned from the street life so
far is: *better safe than sorry*. and you are also sorry when you know
something is actually happening, yet you have little means to prevent
it. i mean that if you keep the place well shut and predict all
possible flaws you are better off than taking measures timed on the
eventuality that a break in has already happened.

what make me feel very uncomfortable is when a common place is
paranoid: if there isn't trust inside then it's not welcoming.
despite the bad things that happen now and then, its important to
avoid that a space gets polluted by a feeling of constant treath or
constant surveillance (two faces of the same medal).

and it is very important to avoid being suspicious of unknown people,
sometimes also a retired engineer might look like a junkie :)

empathy helps, prejudice doesn't.


jaromil,  dyne.org developer,  http://jaromil.dyne.org
GPG: B2D9 9376 BFB2 60B7 601F 5B62 F6D3 FBD9 C2B6 8E39

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