Social Services laptop with client infomation stolen from car

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Shavonne Potts
Salisbury Post
A laptop from the Rowan County Department of Social Services was stolen last week from an employee’s car.
Director Sandra Wilkes said Wednesday it did contain information about eight families but was encrypted.
“It happened last Wednesday night,” Wilkes said by phone.
According to Salisbury Police reports, the woman who called authorities was Angela Alford.
A department report said Alford reported the theft of a Dell laptop and a digital camera from her 2002 Mitsubishi Montego.
Officers responded to 1620 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. that Thursday morning.
Alford told the officer she found the car door ajar. She assumed she hadn’t shut the door completely the night before, said Police Chief Mark Wilhelm.
Once inside, she noticed that it appeared someone had been inside the car.
Blood was found on the driver’s side door and the passenger’s side door.
The employee, Wilkes said, left the laptop sitting on the passenger’s seat. She was a child protective services case manager who planned to make a home visit and later type the information into the laptop.A case manager monitors situations where children remain in the home and do not need to be placed in foster care.
The information on the laptop concerned eight families and included their names, addresses and phone numbers.
Wilkes confirmed there was no Social Security information or confidential or private medical information on the laptop.
“There were probably some written summaries of those contacts,” she said.
All of the information was encrypted on a flash drive, which was also stolen, Wilkes said.
She explained her understanding of how flash drives work.
“Without the employee’s password, a person can’t get into the flash drive,” she said.
It’s very unlikely that someone who stole it could access the information.
The Social Services staff has already notified the eight families by letter.
“We regret this happened. But it’s a wake-up call,” Wilkes said.
This is a warning to other employees to not leave equipment in their cars, even if they are locked, Wilkes said.
The employee’s car was locked, and officials believe someone used a “universal key” to get into the car. No windows were broken.
The employee violated the agency’s policy, which is to place such items in a locked trunk.
“She should not have left the laptop on the seat of the car,” she said.
Social Services has since amended its policy to have employees take laptops inside their homes.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or spotts@salisburypost.com.

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