Veneza Bremner

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

West Campus auto thefts have increased because of students leaving their cars unlocked, according to the Austin Police Department.

According to APD officers, students can help prevent auto thefts by doing two simple things: locking their cars and taking their keys with them.

APD reported an increase in the number of car thefts since the semester began. APD officer Veneza Bremner said the department recorded six separate thefts, most of which took place overnight. 

Bremner said the break-ins occurred while cars were parked on streets or in garages, but students should always remember to lock their cars and take their keys when they leave.

“Remember where you park,” Bremner said. “Take your keys. Lock your car. Hide any valuables. Take your keys. … Yes, that is in there twice. Historically, around 50 percent of all car thefts where the location of keys can be determined are stolen because the victim left keys in the car.”

Economics sophomore Alyson Chandler said people stole her auxiliary cable and phone charger from her car while it was parked outside her apartment complex.

“They totally trashed my car,” Chandler said. “They turned it upside down and made a mess.”

Chandler said her car was unlocked at the time of the break-in.

“I don’t usually lock it when I’m parked at home [for] convenience,” Chandler said. “If I need to grab something, I don’t have to take my keys.”

Chandler said she tries not to keep anything valuable in her car but still keeps her car unlocked.

Ryan Ward, management information systems senior, said he locked his truck doors but that didn’t stop thieves from stealing his Kindle and iPod. Ward said he makes sure to take more precautions when parking his truck.

“I make sure not to leave anything in my truck,” Ward said. “I also made it a priority that my next apartment would have a gate on our parking garage.”

Besides an increase in car thefts, APD also reported an increase in motorcycle and scooter thefts. Bremner said thieves have a harder time stealing the bigger, heavier bikes, but scooters are easily taken.

Neuroscience senior Colton Janysek returned to Austin after a trip at the beginning of the semester to find his motorcycle stolen off the street where he parked it.

“I was gone for a couple of weeks [and thought] maybe it had gotten towed,” Janysek said. “Right [after], I didn’t know how to feel. I was just really numb.”

His bike had been tampered with before while it was parked on campus, Janysek said. Because of the large size of his bike, Janysek said he thinks the thieves must have planned ahead of time.

Bremner said riders should not rely on fork locks, for which the rider turns the front wheel to the left and uses a steering lock.

“It must be chained to something like a post or tree or provided rack,” Bremner said. 

Students should make sure to not have anything visible in their cars and to not leave other keys, in addition to car keys, in the vehicle, according to Bremner.

“Don’t leave any keys in your car,” Bremner said. “If it gets burglarized, the bad guys will find them and can enter your house [and] steal your car.” 

Of the six auto thefts that have occurred recently, Bremner said two of those were recovered.

Daytime residential burglaries in West Campus and North Campus have increased over the past few weeks, according to the Austin Police Department.

APD senior officer Veneza Bremner said there have been six residential burglaries in the West and North campus areas from Aug. 24 to Sept. 26. 

According to Bremner, the burglaries occurred mostly between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and the residences were left unlocked in all cases. 

Bremner said students can take certain common sense safety precautions to prevent daytime burglaries. 

“Lock your doors and windows, and close blinds, curtains and shades so that criminals cannot see inside your residence,” Bremner said. “Talk with your neighbors and ask them to call in if they see suspicious persons or suspicious activity.”

UTPD statistics report around two to three burglaries per month. In 2013, UTPD reported 41 burglaries total.

English junior Luyou Sun, who lives in West Campus, said her friend was robbed when she left her apartment door unlocked last year. 

“She came back after school and noticed that the TV was gone,” Sun said. “The only things they stole were a TV, which cost about $2,000, and a pair of women’s shoes.”

Sun said she thinks students have generally become better at protecting their belongings, especially after a string of burglaries in West Campus in 2012.

“I think, after you have something stolen once, you’re not going to have it happen again,” Sun said. “I’m generally more cautious now.”

Approximately twice as many cell phones were lost or stolen in the U.S. in 2013 compared to 2012, according to a report released Thursday by Consumer Reports.

The annual State of the Net Survey found 3.1 million devices were stolen last year — up from 1.6 million in 2012. The survey projected that more than one million smartphones were lost and never recovered last year.

In the Austin area, more 1,700 mobile devices were stolen last year, according to Austin Police Department. Veneza Bremner, APD senior police officer, said most thefts occur downtown and in Northwest Austin.

“[Downtown and Northwest Austin are] where more people are and have their cell phones out freely,” Bremner said. “You visit restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and you think your phone is safe. You put it down for a second, talk to somebody else, and then the phone is gone. You become easy targets for these cell phone thefts.”

Bremner said the replacement cost of the phone determines the degree of offense, ranging from a Class C to Class A misdemeanor.

UTPD Officer William Pieper said there are countless motives for people to steal a mobile device. Some people sell them on Craigslist or ship them to another location, and some people use the stolen phones themselves.

Rebecca Rosenfield, applied learning and development and human development and family sciences senior, said she met her friends at a downtown bar around midnight in January, and someone stole her iPhone 5 from her purse. Rosenfield said she was shocked it happened to her because she considers herself a responsible person.

“First, it was panic,” Rosenfield said. “I don’t think about my phone as an expensive item because I use it so daily, but, the minute I realized it was gone, I realized that’s not just a thing I can easily go get a new one of. A phone’s more than just a phone. It’s almost like someone’s lifeline.”

Rosenfield said to her knowledge, no personal information was stolen from her. She said she attributes that to the methods she took after her phone was stolen.

“Luckily, I registered my phone through ‘Find My iPhone,’ so we were able to shut off my phone, so no one could retrieve my data,” Rosenfield said. “I was also able to call my service provider, AT&T, and they could blacklist the phone, so, if anyone tried to resell it, it would call another line.”

Top phone manufacturers, including Apple and Samsung, and wireless carriers announced April 15 that they would start implementing basic anti-theft tools on all smartphones sold in the U.S. after July 2015. Features include enabling users to remotely lock their device and remotely erase any data on the phone if it is lost or stolen.

Bremner said it is important to remind people that cell phones are just property.

“We understand that how valuable it is,” Bremner said. “But don’t ever try to engage somebody where it turns into a robbery because you get hurt or there’s loss of life.”

City and University police are investigating a reported assault that occurred near the intersection of 25th and San Gabriel streets around 12:30 a.m. on Monday.

A female student told police she was grabbed from behind, knocked down and pinned to the ground by an unidentified male. Although she was able to ward off the attacker, she could not get a detailed physical description of him before he fled the scene, according to the report.

UTPD sent a campus-wide email Wednesday afternoon requesting that anyone with information related to this incident contact the Austin Police Department.

The alleged assault occurred six blocks from 25th and San Antonio streets, where another student reported witnessing a possible kidnapping around 1 a.m. on Tuesday. No one has been reported missing so far.

Senior police officer Veneza Bremner said APD detectives have no reason to believe that the two reports are related.

“[The Tuesday incident] was closed that night when we didn’t find anybody,” Bremner said. “The other case is still being investigated.”

Bremner said Monday’s reported assault would not cause police to reopen an investigation on Tuesday’s possible kidnapping, because no victims have come forward.

Because of the ongoing assault investigation, police are more visible in the area, Bremner said, but patrols will not increase in West Campus.

“The officers are already out there patrolling all the time,” Bremner said. “They’re not going to add more officers.”