Auto thefts in West Campus decline from last year

Lauren Girgis

The Austin Police Department has reported about 27 fewer automobile thefts in West Campus from January to September compared to the same period in 2018, according to the APD
Crime Viewer.

West Campus, defined by its neighborhood association as the neighborhood spanning from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to 30th Street and in between Lamar Boulevard and Guadalupe Street, has seen a recorded 52 automobile thefts in 2019 as of Sept. 30. Around the same time last year, APD reported 79 auto thefts, for a total of 86 auto thefts in 2018.

APD detective Billy Simoneaux said since the year is not completed yet, it’s hard to tell what the actual value of the decline may be. He said automobile thefts are a crime of opportunity and do not occur more in West Campus than any other part of the city. 

“There is no one specific reason as to why the numbers are down,” Simoneaux said. “Property crime is a crime of opportunity for the most part. There are too many factors to narrow down to what may or may not have caused the difference in numbers.”

According to Crime Viewer, Austin’s overall reports of auto theft at this point last year were 2,041, 433 fewer than the current number of reports. 

Simoneaux said not leaving keys, spare keys or valuables in the vehicle will help prevent auto thefts.

“It’s quite often (that thieves) find vehicles, (burglarize them) for the property that’s in the vehicle, and while the vehicle’s being burglarized, they find spare keys or the actual keys to the vehicle, and then they take the whole vehicle instead of just the property that’s in it,” Simoneaux said.

Simoneaux said auto thefts are usually solved once the vehicles are recovered. From there, Simoneaux said if information leads to someone being involved in the theft, arrest warrants are issued. 

“There’s not much to go on until the vehicle is recovered, unless there are witnesses who observed the theft or video of the theft itself,” Simoneaux said. “Even if there is a video, it’s a matter of
identifying the person who was observed on video before any follow-up can be conducted.”

Meghan Mollicone, textiles and apparel senior, said when she was in high school, her car got broken into and her purse was stolen. Since then, she always makes sure not to leave valuables in her car and is therefore not as concerned about her car getting stolen. 

“I’m not worried when parking in the garage (of my building), but on the street I’m a little bit more cautious,” Mollicone said. “I try to park somewhere that’s well lit.” 

Neuroscience senior Desiree Ortega said she doesn’t think APD can do much to combat auto thefts, so students should take measures to protect their property. 

“I know students who don’t lock their rooms and will leave the lock permanently open,” Ortega said. “But I think that’s hard to say because people find a way to get into the car.”