In light of an increased number of vehicle burglaries on and around campus this semester, UPD is urging car owners to be cautious with their belongings. Most burglars aim to steal physical money or items that would not be identifiable at a pawn shop.
Many of these burglars are not one-time offending criminals. Officer Otto Glenewinkel said many of these crimes are committed by roving gangs of career looters that hit multiple universities in a row, all along I-35.
“Working with other departments, especially universities, we know that there’s big groups,” Glenewinkel said “They love I-35 because there’s universities all up and down. They’ll start in Waco, then they’ll go and spend seven to ten days on one campus or on one town and then they’ll move.”
Due to their experience, the teams are highly efficient; Glenewinkel said that in one instance last semester there were 60 to 70 vehicles burglarized in a single night on the Texas State campus.
“They hit basically every big parking garage on campus,” Glenewinkel said. “I couldn’t tell you exactly how many we had on that one night, but it was like 60 or 70.”
Curiously, the crime statistics reported annually by the university report that only 21 burglaries were committed on campus in 2015, with 38 occurring in 2014 and 33 in 2013.
Glenewinkel also said the nature of the crime makes perpetrators very difficult to apprehend. The thieves stake out areas and watch police activity before burglarizing vehicles.
“They go walking through, they don’t see a cop for six or seven hours,” Glenewinkel said. “Here we have multiple parking garages so they’ll hit one garage and when we start focusing patrols on that garage they’ll hit another one.That’s why we don’t catch them very often.”
Stephen Prentice, associate director of Parking Services, said that while he was not aware of any increase in vehicle burglaries, the parking areas of Texas State are monitored by a combination of cameras and Parking Services officers.
“As part of a (Parking Services) officer’s duty, they patrol the lots to enforce parking rules,” Prentice said. “By virtue of this duty, they are in the lots often and are an extra set of eyes and ears that can report anything suspicious to the UPD.”
Prentice said he was not aware of any plans to increase the number of cameras in place to monitor vehicles.
The University Police are urging people parking on campus to practice crime prevention. Glenewinkle said that most vehicle burglaries happen because people neglect to lock doors, roll up windows or hide their valuables.
“property thefts are the number one crime at the university, but many of these crimes can be averted when you eliminate temptation,” Glenewinkel said.
In the event that a person is the victim of property theft, having the serial numbers of your valuables gives law enforcement a much better chance of finding them.
The University Police Department encourages students concerned about safety while walking on campus to request an escort anytime between dusk and dawn at 512-245-7233.