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Wednesday February 28, 2001

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Campus car thefts, break-ins on rise

By Jose Ceja

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Poor lighting, valuables in plain view help thieves, UAPD says

The recent rise in car thefts and break-ins on campus should prompt UA students to be more aware of their cars' security, a UAPD officer said.

Since January, there have been 52 break-ins and 13 stolen cars reported to the University of Arizona Police Department. Between Feb. 20 and 26 alone, 23 thefts from parked cars and seven car thefts - as well as one attempt - were reported.

UAPD spokesman Sgt. Mike Smith said figures like these should motivate students to take precautions.

Smith said valuables such as CDs and stereos - which are the target of many of the thefts - should not be kept in the car.

"Like always, we recommend that they be kept at home or put in the trunk of the car," Smith said.

Smith also said that it is important that students report suspicious activity and not ignore car alarms.

The largest percentage of thefts and break-ins occur from mid-afternoon to midnight, Smith said, and can go undetected because of the ease with which criminals are able to go unnoticed on a campus the size of the UA.

"Anything that looks suspicious should be reported," he said.

Smith said that with so many vehicles in one confined area, the UA is enticing for car thieves, and the problem is augmented by the poorly lit areas surrounding the university.

"It's tough for the police to be everywhere," he said. "We need a community effort."

Studio art freshman Jeremy Rouse's car window was recently broken, and his parking permit was stolen from the Park Avenue Garage, 1140 N. Park Ave. Although it is not an easy task, he said, parking at the UA should be made safer.

Rouse, who said he was parked in an isolated area of the garage at the time of the theft, said he was surprised his car was broken into because he assumed the garage was safer than a street or surface lot.

"I would've liked to have seen more security, I guess," he said. "Security guards would definitely help."

Although university police officers make rounds near the garages, there will not likely be garage-specific security guards patrolling the structures anytime soon, said Patrick Kass, director of UA Parking and Transportation.

However, Kass did say that parking garages at the UA are being equipped with improved lighting for security purposes.

Fluorescent lighting, such as the type in Tyndall Garage, is being added to all the garages to improve security at a cost of about $100,000 per garage, Kass said. There are four garages on campus in addition to Tyndall.

Kass said despite the improved lighting and the presence of blue emergency phones - the Tyndall Garage has 21 - safety is still a concern of parking and transportation.

Many areas, Kass added, are poorly lit because of lighting standards set by the city because of the number of observatories in Tucson.

"We are trying to design (the parking garages) to eliminate hidden areas," he said.