By Ava Dunwoody | Staff Writer
While a new semester brings students back to campus, it brings with it an increase in crime. For students on and off campus, the amount of car break-ins and vehicle theft is on the rise.
Crime Prevention Officer Sofie Martinez of the Waco Police Department said that “burglaries in the Baylor area have gone up 31%” compared to this time last year. In August 2019, there were 97 reported burglaries. In August 2020, there were 143.
“With a burglar, they are looking for an opportunity to break into a vehicle. If they go by and check a car and it’s unlocked, they are gonna go in,” Martinez said.
Martinez said many of these cases are caused by people forgetting to lock their cars or leaving items visible inside of their vehicles. Some of the most common stolen items include backpacks, laptops, gym bags, purses and credit cards.
“If there is something in there that they see, they are gonna get into that car whether it’s locked or not,” Martinez said. “Now the opportunity is there to possibly steal something that may be of value to them — something they can sell.”
As for the reason behind the increase of cases, the Waco Police Department is unsure. Martinez said one theory is an increase of victim negligence when it comes to locking cars and taking the time to remove items from vehicles when parked.
Waco sophomore Korbyn Woodard said she thinks the rise is due to an increase in desperation due to the negative financial effects of the pandemic. On Aug. 17, she discovered that her car had been broken into in her apartment complex.
“I had left my car in the U Pointe on Speight parking garage overnight, and when I came out the next morning to go to the grocery store, I noticed the glove compartment and the middle console were open,” Woodard said. “Luckily, nothing too valuable was stolen.”
After she had determined a pair of sunglasses and a face mask were stolen, she called 911 to report the theft. Waco police arrived at the scene and dusted for fingerprints. The case remains open.
Phoenix sophomore Micah Stull is another student who fell victim to vehicle theft. In March, he got a call from Waco PD asking him if he knew where his car was. He told the officer it should be parked behind Ruth Collins Hall.
“No sir, it’s not,” the officer said to Stull. “It is crashed inside a house in East Waco.”
Stull then went to meet with the Baylor Police Department, who helped him determine his car had been stolen, driven across town, then totaled inside a house.
“I was kind of shocked,” Stull said. “I didn’t know how it got there. I hadn’t driven it in three days.”
Having his car stolen and wrecked gave him the “viewpoint to actually realize how much crime is going on.” He said that before it happened to him, he wasn’t aware of how common occurrences like his were.
Woodard said she felt similar. When her car was broken into, the police informed her that the apartment parking garage had no cameras.
“It does make me nervous that other things could happen that could possibly be dangerous or unsafe,” Woodard said. “For not only myself, but other residents.”
Martinez said students can help prevent these crimes by being extra cautious with their cars and belongings. She said she often reminds people of the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” If burglars can’t see an item in the car, “they can’t be attracted to it.”
If your car is broken into or stolen, call 911 and report it to the Waco Police Department. Martinez said when someone calls for these crimes, a patrol officer is sent out who dusts for fingerprints, asks questions and gathers evidence to be passed on to a burglary detective.
“Do your part by being proactive, taking a few minutes to lock stuff up [and] put stuff away,” Martinez said. “Be the eyes and ears for us. The police can’t be everywhere, so if you see something, report it.”