Warmer weather expected to increase car break-ins

by Rebekah Bresee

Three on-campus vehicle break-ins have been reported since Jan. 8.

Sophomore Carrie Johnson reported one of these break-ins on Feb. 15.

“I was leaving campus Friday night,” Johnson said. “I was taking my keys out of my purse and one of my friends said, ‘Your car is unlocked.’ I looked in and everything was scattered around.”

Johnson lives in East Hall. Her car was parked in the parking lot behind East. Though the car was locked, the thief jimmied the lock and stole Johnson’s stereo and GPS.

“Security said they would review the camera footage,” Johnson said. “I haven’t heard back from them.”

The security cameras have not caught any of the recent vehicle break-ins. Security supervisor Jacquelyn Christensen said the fact that the cameras are stationary allows them a limited scope.

Junior Nate Swearingen is also a  recent victim of a vehicle break-in.

“It’s weird that we spend money on these great blue things but nothing is caught on cameras in the middle of the day,” Swearingen said.

Swearingen’s vehicle was broken into Sunday, Feb. 24, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. in the Warren parking lot, according to the report.

Swearingen was heading to study session when he noticed the back passenger-side window of his car was smashed.

“I called security and it took about 20 minutes for anyone to show up,” Swearingen said. “I gave a report and took pictures.”

Security takes a report for every crime on campus and, depending on the severity of the crime, may notify the Sheriff’s department.

In addition, all crime victims are referred to the Spokane County Sheriff Department Crime Check line. That is a non-emergency phone number where victims obtain a crime report number. They can also request that a deputy respond to the scene.

Since nothing was stolen from Swearingen’s vehicle, there was no need for a deputy to come on the scene.

“I think they saw the empty printer box in my car and thought they could steal a printer,” Swearingen said.

According to AOL Autos, $1.26 billion in personal items and accessories are stolen from vehicles each year. For every theft, experts estimate, there are several break-ins and attempted break-ins.

Having items such as backpacks, iPods or change in plain sight draws the attention of thieves to certain vehicles. Students should lock the contents of their car in the trunk and be sure valuables are out of plain sight.

“It’s all been small stuff like sunglasses, cash and iPods being stolen. The windows being smashed is more costly than the items being stolen,” Christensen said.

Both Johnson and Swearingen have taken these precautions to prevent future break-ins. Johnson now parks in the front parking lot where her car is more visible and Swearingen has removed all valuables from his car and hid his electronic cords.

Christensen said the break-ins have been random and security has not found any consistencies. They are unsure whether the thief is a student or an off-campus prowler.

“I feel like even if they saw the people on the tape, they can’t do anything about it unless it is a student on campus,” Johnson said.

If a student is caught stealing, security refers him or her to student life services. From there they go through the regular disciplinary procedure. The student may have criminal consequences as well as punishment from school.

“I have told the security officers to be patrolling the parking lot and question any non-students they see wandering around campus,” Christensen said.

Christensen meets with the security supervisors of Gonzaga University and Eastern University monthly. They share information about what is happening on their campuses such as bikes being stolen, prowlers on campus or vehicle break-ins.

“We work with student life to make students aware that their vehicle could be broken into,” Christensen said.

There have been no reports of vehicles’ tires being slashed or vehicles being stolen on campus. Christensen said the number of break-ins over a three-month period is normal and security has no real concern.

“When the weather gets better, we anticipate that there will be more break-ins,” Christensen said.

She said that is due to the fact that people are out wandering around more during the spring.

“Students should not be afraid to report someone who looks suspicious,” Christensen said.

Contact Rebekah Bresee at rbresee16@my.whitworth.edu

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