Crimestoppers Notebook: The case of the missing typewriters.

Alarmed at increasing thefts from Energy Department headquarters in the Forrestal Building, the department's inspector general launched an investigation not long ago. The results suggest that crime pays, and crime-stopping sometimes doesn't.

James Wright, the acting IG, determined that 286 separate thefts were reported at DOE between January 1979 and June 1980, for a total loss of $65,000. Typewriters were the favorite item, followed by wallets. During this time, the Forrestal complex on Independence Avenue was an "open building," means that people could come and go at will during regular working hours, with no identification required.

The IG noted that ". . . typewriters can easily be removed by taking them down to the garage, placing them in a vehicle, and driving away." During a two-week period last summer, six typewriters with a total value of $3,500 disappeared. And this was despite the presence of guards and other security services for which DOE paid $49,000 during the 1980 fiscal year.

Shortly after the Reagan administration took over, tighter security was clamped on the Forrestal Building. Employes now must wear identification badges and visitors must sign in and out.

But the best method for foiling the typewriter thieves would be to bolt typewriters to tables, the acting IG said. And what does it cost to bolt a typewriter to a table in the federal government?

According to the General Services Administration, "the average cost of bolt down a typewriter (material and labor) is about $80. We think DOE should consider the economic feasibility of this proposal," Wright said.

Translation: crime-proofing the typewriters would cost more than it would save.