Police report steady rise in car break-ins, thefts
As the semesters roll by, more thieves are breaking into more cars and stealing more items from UA students, faculty and employees, police said.
The amount of thefts from motor vehicles on the University of Arizona campus has risen from 24 in the fall 1998 semester to 87 for the fall 1999 semester. And with 23 thefts last month, police say it doesn't look like the trend is slowing.
"Thieves are smarter, getting better at what they do, and there are just more of them around," said Sgt. Michael Smith, spokesman for the University of Arizona Police Department. "Thieves are simply too good to get caught, and there are more and more vehicles around to steal from."
But even though the numbers are rising, many car owners parking on campus still feel safe.
"I haven't had any problems parking on campus and I feel pretty safe about it," said Julie Diegel, a veterinary science freshman. "I park in Zone 1 lots all the time and I don't even know anyone who has had their car broken into. My roommate said a weird guy came up to her after she parked her car one time, but that is the only time I can think of hearing anyone talk about problems with parking on campus."
Even non-students who use campus parking said they feel safe most of the time.
ăI have been parking on campus for three years and I have only had a couple of people tell me that their cars have been broken into,ä said Holly Langford, a campus minister affiliated with Faith Christian Church. ăI deal with a lot of students and I havenât heard much about break-ins. I definitely feel safe parking on campus.ä
But the numbers are still rising, and Smith said there isnât much anyone can do about it.
It doesnât seem to matter if the vehicle is a fully loaded 1999 Ford Mustang with an expensive alarm or a beaten-up 1985 Toyota. Both types of cars have been broken into in the past month.
Thieves arenât picky about what is inside the cars either, as items being stolen arenât just car stereos and speakers. In the past month, hubcaps, cellular phones, purses, checkbooks, a tent and even a bowling ball were fodder for thieves.
ăCars are being broken into everywhere,ä Smith said. ăPeople shouldnât think that the UA is a terrible place to park their car, because you can park your car anywhere in Tucson or Arizona, and someone will probably pass by with the idea to break into it.ä
Smith said the UAPD isnât as well-staffed as it could be, but the problem of theft from vehicles isnât localized to UAPD.
ăWe have at least three officers on patrol at all times,ä he said. ăBut it wouldnât matter if there were 100 on patrol. Cars will still be broken into and stuff will be stolen.ä
Smith noted that the alarming number of break-ins in January is common, specifically because people park their cars on campus over winter break.
There were four car break-ins in January 1999, but January 1998 had 16.
ăIt is pretty random,ä he said. ăChristmas and spring breaks are big times for break-ins, but some people get hit and others donât.ä
Smith added that not only is theft UAâs leading crime, it is nearly impossible to catch someone unless they are in the act of committing the crime.
ăIt is a crime of opportunity,ä he said. ăWe know that even if someone locks their doors and sets an alarm, thieves will still bash windows and get in. But keeping expensive items out of view and leaving stuff at home can deter a thief somewhat.ä
Joyce Childers, program coordinator with Parking and Transportation Services, said the department patrols, but cannot feasibly watch, all campus lots 24 hours a day.
ăWe try to make sure all lights work (in lots and garages) and report them if they donât,ä Childers said.
She added that the department works to make sure campus parking is safe and reports any problems to UAPD.