University Police purchased 4,000 Clubs, an auto anti-theft device, with a $45,000 federal grant when they were informed that motor vehicle theft was the highest increased crime in 2000 at the Tampa campus. Campus motor vehicle theft increased from 22 to 64 incidents in the year 1999, and UP used the money received in late October to purchase the Clubs to give to owners whose vehicles are targets for theft. UP will distribute the Clubs Dec. 5 at Martin Luther King Plaza.
In order to receive a Club, people must present their license and vehicle registration to show proof that they own one of the top 15 vehicles targeted for theft. The target vehicles include certain models of Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Jeep, Mercury and Toyota.
UP Sgt. Mike Klingebiel said a car can be stolen within 60 seconds, but if criminals see a Club on the car it looks like a harder target.
“The Club takes extra time and looks less attractive,” Klingebiel said. “We hope to reduce those numbers (of auto theft).”
UP Lt. Tracy Goodman said these vehicles may be at high risk for theft because they are easy to steal or easy to start.Goodman said auto thefts on campus are usually done by juveniles; however, they aren’t stealing vehicles to sell them. Goodman said sometimes they take what they can get out of the vehicle and usually just leave it in an area off campus.
“They do this and go back to do the same thing all over again,” Goodman said. “It’s like a kick to them. They do it when they get bored.”
Senior Matt Squires said it is good that the university has taken the initiative to control theft on campus, but he doesn’t think it will prevent theft.
“It doesn’t stop people from stealing if the campus doesn’t have more police,” Squires said.
That is why Goodman said she, along with other officers, has made the effort to be more visible and watch for suspicious activity on campus. She said she looks for activity that is out of the ordinary and the appearance of people on campus.
“If someone on campus looks 14 or 15, they don’t fit the age group so we watch them a little bit,” Goodman said. “It depends on what they are wearing also, such as a heavy coat in this type of weather.”
Goodman said when she sees people that are doing something out of the ordinary, such as looking around or walking near a car for a long period of time, she will stop them to see what they are doing. If it turns out they were waiting on someone, she explains to them there has been a high vehicle theft rate.
Klingebiel said on-campus crime may have increased because there was an increase off campus.
“It seems to be the popular thing again,” Klingebiel said. “It is crime of youth and not of economic gain.”
Klingebiel said money from the federal grant also went to purchasing an electronic receiver that tracks stolen vehicles if a transmitter is installed in the vehicle. The department also purchased crime education materials.
Klingebiel said with a theft increase on campus rising from 347 incidents in 1999 to 406 in 2000. UP plans to warn students, faculty and staff by mailing flyers to them. Klingebiel said they also plan to inform people through conversation and their safety guides.
“We are required to get the information into the hands of all students,” Klingebiel said. “This way they know what to do and how to get statistics.”
Klingebiel said theft can be any type of personal belonging from a bicycle to a small item. The addition of new residence halls, such as Magnolia Apartments, has contributed to an increase in property theft, he said.
“There is more property because there are more residents,” Klingebiel said.
Klingebiel said property theft can be prevented with common sense such as locking vehicles, bicycles and doors. Also keeping personal items with you can prevent theft, he said.
Senior Marie Hendry said she doesn’t think her vehicle is at risk for theft, but she takes precautions with her personal belongings on campus.
“I don’t leave my things unattended because I am afraid it will be stolen,” Hendry said. “I keep a tight grip on my purse.”
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