By Holly Wells
CASSIE TOMLIN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Students head to their cars in the Tyndall Avenue Garage last week. Despite a number of recent break-ins at campus garages, UAPD claims they are still safer than Zone 1 lots.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Three 18-year-old men were caught stealing from cars in garages Nov. 14, but Zone 1 lots remain the most prone to thefts, according to UAPD.
Miguel Santa Cruz, Santiago Espinosa, and Luis Flores were all arrested after witnesses saw Santa Cruz and Espinosa break into a white Honda Civic around 10 p.m. Nov. 14 at Cherry Avenue Garage, 1641 E. Enke Drive, UAPD reports stated.
A total of five cars were broken into that night, four parked in the Second Street Garage, 1340 E. Second St. and one parked in the Cherry Avenue Garage.
Santa Cruz and Espinosa were charged with two counts of third-degree burglary, Espinosa was also charged with possession of burglary tools. Flores was charged with conspiracy to commit burglary.
Sgt. Eugene Mejia, UAPD spokesman, said car thieves are usually hard to catch.
"We caught someone in the act. Normally with car break-ins, we don't hear about it until after the fact," he said.
But Mejia said even with the recent arrests, garages still have less crime then Zone 1 lots.
Between January and November this year, 16 cars have been stolen from Zone 1 lots and three stolen from garages. During the same time period there were 17 cases of break-ins of cars parked in Zone 1 lots and six cases in garages.
From September 2003 to September 2004, the south side of campus had the greatest amount of vehicle theft and vehicle crime. Honda Civics and Ford F150s were among the most commonly stolen cars.
Lauren Mayes said her car was broken into the night the three men were arrested. She said she it was parked it in the Second Street Garage.
"I had gone shopping earlier that day and all the bags were in my car. They took everything from my trunk," she said.
Mayes said one of her windows was broken and there was glass all over her back seat.
Although many of Mayes' things were returned after the arrest, she said she no longer feels safe parking in the garage.
"It's the reason I chose a garage; I paid a ridiculous amount of money because I thought it was more safe. Now I'm thinking about trying somewhere else," she said.
Patrick Kass, director of parking and transportation, said his staff usually advises students that garages are safer than Zone 1 lots.
"The garages are covered structures, which means we're able to provide more lighting compared to the surface lots, and there's more activity in a concentrated area," he said.
Mayes said she feels parking garages are least safe on the weekends when there is no cashier working.
"Parking and Transportation makes so much money off of us, there's no reason why they can't step up the security," she said.
Kass said cashiers are only in the garages Monday through Friday, but said maintenance staff is usually in and out of the garages most days.
Mejia said the increased number of people in garages, including Parking and Transportation employees, is one reason there is less theft in garages. He said another reason is there is a clear border in garages.
"There are less accessible areas to get in and get out. Criminals want to get in undetected and leave as quickly as possible. A garage limits their access into the area and they don't want to go through that much trouble," Mejia said.
Even though police patrol parking lots and garages, Mejia said it's hard to catch someone in the act of stealing from a car.
"Unless we can see it was vandalized, we can't tell that the car's been broken into," he said. "They use devices to unlock cars so there's no physical evidence, and they duck down when someone drives by."
Mejia said police rely on the campus community to report strange behavior or anything that seems unusual.
In order to decrease the chance of their car getting broken into, students should have an alarm and visible locking devices on their steering column, Mejia said. He said criminals are often looking for an easy target and won't want to mess with such devices.
A "Fortress" 4-hook steering wheel lock is available for $10 at UAPD, 1852 E. First St.
Mejia said UAPD teamed up with Security Hardware and Master Lock to offer the lock in hopes of decreasing car theft on campus.