Car burglaries in West Campus have been on the rise for the past two months, according to Austin Police Department officials.
Between March 22 and the end of April, 47 car burglaries took place. A Campus Watch email, which UTPD sent out, notified students of the increased activity.
Although West Campus is distinct from the University, officers from the APD said they wanted students to be aware of the trend. When APD officer William Harvey notified UTPD, APD officers said a lot of the break-ins occurred because students left their cars unlocked, which increased accessibility for thieves.
“Vehicle burglaries are typically crimes of opportunity, so to speak,” Harvey said. “If somebody walks by your car and there’s nothing in it, [the chances] of somebody wanting to break into it is pretty low.”
Officers also said students had left their belongings in their cars clearly visible to anyone walking past, UTPD Sgt. Layne Brewster said.
Although Harvey said car burglaries are common in West Campus, he said the thieves did not take high-value items.
“Actually this was kind of weird — there was a lot of paperwork taken in 17 of the 47 cases,” Harvey said. “There was some sort of paper work — anything from vehicle registration paperwork — and there were even some owner’s manuals taken. I’ve never heard of owner’s manuals being taken from vehicles, so that was strange.”
When it comes to preventing thefts such as this from happening, Brewster said the solution is pretty straightforward.
“The number one thing is to take everything out of your car — that way there is nothing for anyone to steal,” Brewster said. “The other option is to hide it, but, if you hide it, you still run the risk of someone breaking into the car.”
While covering items up with other things or hiding them is common, Brewster said the police do not recommend it because it often will not deter a thief from trying to get into a car.
“If the car is locked, they break a window, and then not only are you going to lose out on the items that they steal, but you’re also going to have to repair that window,” Brewster said.
Fifteen of the 47 burglaries involved cars with their windows broken, Harvey said.
As part of an effort to help raise awareness about the issue, APD officers went around to different garages and left notes on people’s cars telling them what, if anything, inside their car would make it more likely for an individual to break in.
Although her car was not broken into, linguistics and mathematics senior Madison Lasris said she was not happy when she saw the note.
“[I thought] that it made it really easy for thieves [because] they didn’t even have to look in cars since the police did that for them,” Lasris said.
Officers usually find laptops or other high value items, but Harvey said he has seen thieves break into cars for as little as change in cup holders.
“Basically, it’s just a reminder for people that if we can see what’s in your car, think about who else can walk up and see what’s in your car,” Harvey said.