APD warns against increased motor vehicle thefts

Catherine Marfin

Vehicle thefts increased in areas surrounding campus following University commencement ceremonies, Austin Police reported.

The Austin Police Department issued an advisory to Austin residents and UT students detailing  the rise  of motor vehicles and mopeds stolen in the areas West and North of campus. 

Police officials accredit the spike as normal for this time of the year.

“We generally see this increase in auto theft and burglaries in the summer because it’s daylight for much longer,” said Officer William Pieper, member of the UTPD Crime Prevention Unit. “People are out and about for a lot longer during all hours of the day doing things they don’t normally do at other times of the year, which makes it easier to commit crimes.”

APD released a statement calling July “watch your car month” as auto thefts have increased. Until the end of July, APD’s Auto Theft Interdiction Project is offering free Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) etching, a technique that reduces the value of a stolen vehicle to thieves by etching a car’s VIN onto its windows.

Between May 28 and June 27, APD responded to 12 cases in which car keys were left in a vehicle, resulting in theft. The weekend after July 4, five moped or scooter thefts occurred around West 26th Street and around San Gabriel. In areas north of campus during the same week, a motorcycle and an automobile theft occurred, but the automobile — a Chevy HHR — was recovered. In West Campus, there were seven cases of moped and motorcycle theft and two vehicle thefts.

The UT Police Department has periodically been notifying the campus community of this increase in thefts through the Campus Watch, a daily update of selected crimes sent out to subscribers by UTPD via email.

APD officers said that summer vehicle thefts are not limited to residential areas only during summer months. “Vehicle crimes often happen at residences, gas stations, malls, daycares, hospitals, hike and bike trails and fitness centers,” Department officials said in an advisory last week.

Vehicles, the advisory noted, are usually stolen for profit, joyriding or to commit another crime. APD has noted target hours for vehicle thefts are Saturday through Monday, as well as Thursday, between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. 

“It seems like common sense not to leave your keys in the car, but I can’t really judge, because I did it by complete accident one time,” said Hannah Kelly, a journalism and Plan II senior. “Areas in West Campus can be kind of empty in the summer, so people feel more comfortable being lax with their safety measures.”

To prevent auto theft, APD recommends Austin residents keep valuables out of sight and avoid leaving their car running while unattended.