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University of Copenhagen
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Fancy designer furniture stolen from uni

Expensive lamps and chairs have been stolen from the University of Copenhagen. Proposed solution: More surveillance and restrictions on access. But at a time of cutbacks, critics wonder why the University has classic designer furniture at all

Opening its historical buildings to the public has been a costly affait for the University of Copenhagen. Earlier this year, thieves took advantage of the open doors in Fiolstræde to get away with 24 Wegner-chairs, to the total value of DKK 240,000.

If this was not enough, five copper PH-lamps valued at DKK 50,000 were stolen from the gate of Nørregade 10. The university has to cover its losses itself, as it – like other public institutions – is self-insured.

Erwin Koster Kristensen, the manager of Campus Service City says that it is a crying shame that people cannot keep their hands to themselves.

Increased surveillance vs. an open university

Campus Service City had ‘Københavns Universitet’ (University of Copenhagen, ed.) engraved into the lamps five years ago, according to Kristensen, after a bunch of them were stolen. But this has apparently not been enough to deter the criminals.

»Theft comes in waves. We’ve had far fewer incidents in the last five years, following a rough patch,« says Erwin Koster Kristensen. »But now it looks as though the thieves have returned,«

The CSC manager is considering installing more cameras and locking the doors of more buildings, but stresses at the same time that it is important to respect the University’s wish to be an open organisation – a living part of the city.

Fewer designer classics = less theft

Increased surveillance has been a ‘success’ at the Faculty of Humanities, when the university started working with the police on the matter in 2004. The year before, DKK 1 million worth was stolen. Now ‘only’ approximately DKK 100,000 is stolen per annum.

Kristensen does not believe it possible to avoid theft altogether: He recalls an episode from a few years back, when a man waltzed in to an exam on the central campus area at Frue Plads, grabbed two Fritz Hansen chairs, and left.

»We can’t really plan for that sort of thing, so the best option is probably to stop buying expensive designer classics. There are, after all, plenty of gifted young architects making wonderful things,« he says.

Cut staff, keep the furniture

A more fundamental question is perhaps what has been brought up by a reader, Elizabeth Hansen, in response to a Danish version of this article.

»At a time when taxpayers, as well as staff and students at universities face cuts, why should publicly-funded institutions be in possession of large assets in furniture at all?«

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