Three arrested for breaking into students’ cars

Diana Kruzman | Daily Trojan

Police recovered a student’s stolen car north of campus late Tuesday night, only to find that it was filled with items stolen from other students earlier that day.

Los Angeles Police Department officers received a call that the stolen car had been spotted in the area at around 11:50 p.m., and quickly arrived at the scene, along with Department of Public Safety officers and at least one LAPD helicopter. Three people were arrested in connection to the theft, and students were blocked from entering the section of Shrine Place, where the car was found, while police confronted the suspects.

Danielle Binnette, a sophomore majoring in economics, said she woke up Tuesday morning to find that her car, a black SUV, was missing from her garage on Shrine Place. She reported the theft to DPS, and after reviewing security footage, she said officers determined that a man had entered her garage and taken her car, leaving the car he came in — which had also been stolen.

Binnette said that her garage was locked, and she is unsure how the man was able to get in — but she was in the process of getting the locks on her car doors replaced, and her car key was inside at the time her car was stolen.

Diana Kruzman | Daily Trojan

“I think they were looking around beforehand, because on the video, they went straight for my car,” Binnette said. “They knew whose car to go into, because my locks hadn’t been working for a week.”

Binnette only found out that her car had been recovered when she looked outside her window just before midnight and saw it on the street, surrounded by police officers. Automatic license plate readers placed around the perimeter of USC had detected the stolen car heading southbound on Menlo Avenue, according to LAPD officers at the scene, who blocked it on Shrine Place before arresting the suspects at gunpoint.

Once Binnette realized it was her car, however, she said that many of the items in it weren’t hers — and several other students confirmed that their cars had been broken into, and their possessions were found in Binnette’s car.

Francisco Schirls, a sophomore majoring in film production, realized that his car had been broken into at around 9 p.m. Tuesday, and that several items had been stolen — including his guitar, a drone and the insurance and registration information for his vehicle. Schirls, who lives on Menlo Avenue, says his car was unlocked — but Maxim Smirnoff, a senior majoring in cinema and media studies who lives with Schirls and whose car was also broken into, said he locked his car and is unsure how the suspects got in.

Smirnoff said his headphones and longboard were stolen and are still missing, while his books and several other items were found in the recovered vehicle.

“I went through every scenario in my head,” Smirnoff said. “I lock everything, so that’s why I’m kind of paranoid. I have an alarm, I lock my car — and the stuff I had in there was hidden, not in plain sight.”

For Binnette, the experience turned out to be a wake-up call.

“I’ll be more careful,” Binnette said. “I need to order those locks, and not keep my keys in my car. I thought one day would be OK, but no.”