By Luke Lattanzi | Staff Writer
The Baylor Police Department saw a recent spike in motor vehicle thefts on and near campus, as was reported on recent statistics from the City of Waco and a Baylor Timely Warning email.
On April 19, Baylor sent out an email stating two instances of vehicle theft had occurred, one on campus and one off campus.The first vehicle theft occurred on April 14 at the East Campus Parking garage, and the second on April 19 near University Parks Apartments.
“The Baylor University Police Department (BUPD) is investigating two reports of motor vehicle thefts,” the email stated. “BUPD is currently investigating these incidents. Law enforcement has increased patrols in the area and other locations immediately adjacent to campus.”
The email also said BUPD recommends people lock their vehicles, avoid leaving their keys or a spare set of keys in their vehicles, park in well-lit areas and consider using anti-theft devices.
“That notification that we pushed out, we wanted to make sure that the people were aware that that was something that was unusual, [and] was something that we wanted to make sure that our community was aware of that,” Don Rodman, Baylor assistant chief of police, said.
According to Rodman, vehicle thefts in Waco are part of a larger increase in vehicle thefts across the nation.
In 2022, vehicle thefts increased 7% nationwide from 2021, with over 250,000 vehicle thefts being reported in the fourth quarter of 2022 alone, according to a news release from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
The most recent Waco crime statistics show four instances of motor vehicle theft last month around the Baylor Neighborhood, which is up from two instances from a year ago during the same month. Burglaries of motor vehicles also increased within the same timeframe, from six instances in March 2022 to eight instances in March 2023.
“The biggest thing that you’re gonna hear from us is … where you park,” Rodman said. “Park in a well-lit, populated area, where there’s going to be people trafficking the area, that’s always helpful. And again, all of our parking lots are covered with cameras.”
Rodman also said it is important for people to return to their vehicles regularly, as a vehicle that is unattended for a long period of time is more likely to be broken into or stolen.
“A big thing is reporting suspicious behavior,” Rodman said. “If you’re in a lot or if you’re in a parking garage, and you see someone that is just kind of loitering and hanging out in that space, and it just doesn’t seem right that they should be, report that to us.”
“The most important thing to remember is to lock your car and take all valuables inside,” Cierra Shipley, Waco police department spokesperson, said via email. “Do not leave personal belongings in plain view and never leave your car unlocked or running and unattended. These are crimes of opportunity meaning when a criminal sees the opportunity to commit the crime they will.”
Rodman said law enforcement resorts to a variety of methods to combat and prevent these crimes from occurring. “Putting cops on dots,” as Rodman called it, is when law enforcement analyzes trends and patterns in crime from different areas to see which areas, or “dots,” need more attention from law enforcement. The more consistent the pattern of crime, the bigger law enforcement presence there will be.
“We’re going to have officers in vehicles, we’re going to have officers on foot, we’re going to have security officers patrolling that area that are not in full uniform [in those areas]. … There’s a variety of different methods to take,” Rodman said. “We also have our dispatch monitor from the [security] cameras as well.”
The prevention of car thefts and car burglaries is largely dependent on people noticing suspicious activity and reporting it to law enforcement, Rodman said.
“After we pushed that notification, we had individuals that were pulling on door handles within a parking garage,” Rodman said. “I can understand if it’s one vehicle, but when you’re moving to numerous vehicles, that’s very suspicious. Someone noticed that, they called it in, and we were able to detain those individuals and have a conversation and determine what they were up to.”
Rodman said in the event that a vehicle is stolen, the owner should first file a report with their local police department in a timely manner. Next, victims should work with their car insurance company to determine the next steps, as insurance coverage can determine a variety of things, such as obtaining a rental car.
Rodman also said, in the end, the same principle of, “If you see something, say something,” are essential for preventing future instances of car theft or car burglary.