Students should keep their cars completely empty when they park on campus to prevent car burglaries, according to UTPD officer William Pieper.
Even seemingly mundane items, such as pieces of paper, could entice thieves into breaking into a car, Pieper said.
“A car burglar will break into your car just to rummage through papers,” Pieper said. “They see paper; they might think mail. College students get a lot of interesting mail — credit card applications, college records, cash from mom and dad — all the things a bad guy is interested in to steal identities.”
Over the past year, the Austin Police Department has reached out to UTPD several times to post warnings about increases in car burglaries in the North and West Campus areas in the Campus Watch crime logs, according to Pieper.
Detective Lawrence Davis with Austin Police Department said burglaries usually occur in batches where the same criminals commit a series of violations in one night.
“If you see a lot of crime in an area, my experience has been you have one person or a group of individuals who are committing a high volume of crime in the area,” Davis said. “Once we catch that person, there is a dramatic fall in that area.”
Davis said that oftentimes, burglaries occur because car owners forget to take basic steps to secure their car before leaving it for the day.
“Many of my reports start with someone saying, ‘Oh, I know I should have done this, or I knew I should have done that,’ and while they are talking to me, I have empathy for them, but they are right,” Davis said. “They should have locked their car or hid their belongings.”
Even large and heavy items can be stolen in a matter of minutes if the thief has a partner in crime, Pieper said.
“What I have seen with auto burglaries is that typically, they will come up with a car,” Pieper said. “One person will sit in the front with their engine running, the other will jump out, break a window, take stuff, put it in the car and drive off. The whole thing just takes a couple minutes, and with a car sitting right there, you do not need to carry it great distances.”
Davis said it is important for students to be aware of their surroundings so that thieves feel uncomfortable operating in or around the University community.
“Crime is high in neighborhoods where criminals think no one is watching them,” Davis said. “If students are weary and tired, they are rushing to class and they are not concerned about who is around them, the criminal is going to feel fine committing a crime. You have to open your field of vision and pay attention.”
Biochemistry senior Anthony Encarnacion said he generally feels safe parking his car on campus.
“Because [my parking spot] is right on campus, when students are walking by, there won’t be any burglaries with that many people walking around,” Encarnacion said. “But I can see it being in issue in less populated areas.”