30 computers stolen from aid agency

December 16, 2006

By Mary Callahan, The Press Democrat


The theft of 30 computers and other electronic equipment from a nonprofit agency serving thousands of developmentally disabled clients goes beyond the mere material: it means confusion and fear for those least likely to understand it, an agency official said Friday.

Under federal privacy rules, the North Bay Regional Center had to alert more than 3,000 of its clients that their personal data might have been compromised in the burglaries last month at its Santa Rosa office and adjacent annex, Chief Financial Officer Bob Hamilton said.

Personal items also were taken from agency staffers, including documentation that could fuel identity theft problems later, Hamilton said.

"The unfortunate part is it's not just the physical loss," he said.

The agency, which serves about 6,000 people - providing diagnostic consultations, advocacy and lifetime case management - was researching new security equipment when thieves broke into its Mendocino Avenue office Nov. 17 and took 21 Dell computers assigned to staffers, as well as new videoconferencing and other equipment.

The culprits opened and emptied every drawer, and generally made a mess. They took hundreds of dollars in electric toothbrushes to be given out to clients for personal hygiene, staffers' personal property and more than $200 one had raised to help buy Christmas toys for needy children, Hamilton said.

The adjacent annex was hit 12 days later, and nine more computers were stolen.

Police are investigating to determine whether the burglaries are linked to four others in which business offices were broken into and computers taken, police Sgt. Lisa Banayat said.

Personnel at some of those offices also learned weeks later that their personal information had been compromised and, in some cases, their credit cards used, Banayat said.

"You're violated, and you're compromised," Hamilton said.

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