Sunspot employee calls facility 'breeding ground for crime' | KOB 4

Sunspot employee calls facility 'breeding ground for crime'

Ryan Laughlin
September 16, 2018 10:53 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The mysteriously shut down Sunspot Observatory is reopening Monday after more than a week of shadowy investigations by the FBI and tight-lipped officials.


KOB spoke exclusively with an employee at the observatory who said he believes the FBI investigation could revolve around the theft of some expensive equipment.

"It really didn't surprise me that FBI might be showing up someday, due to the things that have been going on at the site prior to the evacuation,” said the Sunspot employee, who KOB is not naming on the basis of anonymity. "I have noticed that Sunspot is basically, what I would call, a breeding ground for crime."

He said loose security management at the site has led to criminal trespassing, vandalism and theft.

"We discovered what appears to be, it's still under investigation, the theft of $15,000 of electronic test equipment,” he said, adding most people wouldn’t even know what the equipment comprises. “The only type of person that would need it is someone working on a communications system."

KOB reached out to the FBI and asked if there was any stolen property. They directed us to the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), the group running the facility.

AURA issued a statement attributing the shutdown to a security risk and said a suspect in a criminal investigation posed a potential threat to staff.

AURA said recent developments have determined there is no risk to staff, and operations will resume. The group said it has temporarily hired a security company amid an unusual number of recent visitors.

Still, this employee has concerns about lack of security going forward.

"The operating authorities are either unaware of the extent of the problem, or unwilling to deal with it,” he said.

AURA said the reason they stayed silent during the shutdown was to prevent potentially alerting the suspect and impeding law enforcement’s efforts.


Ryan Laughlin

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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