Campus car theft persists

Illustration by Matt Weir,Mike Howells,Michael Uribes/The Collegian

With Fresno having one of the highest rates of car theft in the state, it is no surprise that Fresno State’s campus is no stranger to car theft and break-ins. Recent incidents indicate that vehicle and property safety is still very much a concern for students.

“I really didn’t think this would happen to me,” said Ben Ingersoll, The Collegian co-sports editor, whose 2002 Ford Escape was broken into, leaving his front-passenger window shattered with shards of glass left on the roof and windshield.

The incident happened Sep. 4 while his car was parked at Plaza Apartments next to The Bulldog Shop during the football game. It was parked from 3 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. His backpack, which was on the passenger front seat, was stolen. As a result, more than $120 worth of school material was lost.

“For the 2009-2010 academic year we had a total of 7 vehicle thefts, though 6 vehicles were recovered,” said Amy Armstrong, public information officer from the Campus Police Department at Fresno State.

[There has been] one vehicle theft [this semester],” said Armstrong. “It has not been recovered.”

Even though other valuable materials were in Ingersoll’s car; an iPod, check book, golf clubs, and 2 sunglasses worth $200 total, only his backpack was taken. Ingersoll said that because he had a car alarm, it might have prevented other personal items from being stolen.

Car burglaries are nothing new for California and the City of Fresno. According to the Insurance Information Institute, California has the highest car theft rate in the country. When it comes to cities, Fresno is number five in the nation.

“If anything was to be stolen from my car, I would probably call 911 right away,” said Nakie Vang, a sophomore in liberal studies.

Armstrong said students should instead call the University Police Department and report the incident. She also recommends that all students write down serial numbers for all valuable materials, such as laptops and other electronics. If these materials are stolen from their vehicles, the serial numbers should be given to the police. The officer will file a report and give students a case number.

Once the serial number is registered in their system, it will increase the possibility of materials being returned to the owner, if recovered, said Armstrong.

Many auto theft crimes, however, are not reported. Ingersoll is one more auto theft victim who did not report the crime to the police, but he did report it to his insurance company.

To minimize the number of car thefts, the city of Fresno formed Hard Entry and Tactics (H.E.A.T.) Auto Theft Task Force in 1996, which has 15 police officers in charge of the operation. In 2008 they made 308 felony arrests, recovered 432 stolen vehicles and other miscellaneous items, according to the city of Fresno’s web site.

Some students are concerned with the role campus police play on campus.

“I see more [police] on other parts of the school, but on the parking lot I just see one,” said freshman Erica Torres.

“When I go back to my car, I see them riding on their [golf carts], riding it on the sidewalk, but not really in the parking lots,” said Vang, who also expressed concern for her car’s safety. “The only time I see them on the parking lot is when students go in and out, and then they go in quickly to see if students have a permit or not.”

But perhaps the most effective thing a student can do is to remain cautious when they leave and secure their vehicles. By making sure doors are locked, and that cars are parked in well-lit areas, it may save a poor college student some hardship.

“Don’t leave your things in plain sight,” said Ingersoll.

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