With a 100 percent increase in thefts from cars near campus since this time last year, Department of Public Safety officials are warning members of the USC community to remove valuable items from their cars to help prevent burglaries.
Since the beginning of the semester, there have been 32 reports of property stolen from cars in North University Park, according to DPS officials. DPS Crime Analyst and Crime Prevention Specialist Wyman Thomas said at this time last year there had been 16 burglaries.
According to the crime reports, burglars typically gain entry to a car by smashing the passenger window. DPS officials said the most common items stolen are GPS navigational units, but thieves also steal iPods, cell phones and wallets. The total value of items reported stolen has reached $14,850.
The recent spike in thefts from cars has prompted DPS to reach out to the USC community, warning students in an e-mail to keep valuables out of sight when they leave their cars parked.
“If we can get people to not make things so attractive, then that would help make it go away because there isn’t anything to take,” Thomas said.
DPS Capt. David Carlisle said items like GPS units and iPods are “easy scores” for burglars, as they are portable and can be easily concealed.
“These are popular items that thieves can steal and quickly turn around and sell for profit,” Carlisle said.
Echoing Thomas’ sentiment, Carlisle said the best step in preventing car burglaries is to stow electronics when leaving the car.
“One of the best ways to stop people from breaking into cars is to have people keep their valuables out of sight,” Carlisle said.
The crimes have been occurring in alleys, backstreets and parking structures.
Aside from advising students to take precautionary measures, DPS is also implementing various patrol operations and strategies to address these problems. Methods include undercover officers, bicycle officers and increased patrols. DPS also holds weekly crime analysis meetings to address any trends or increases in crime.
Thomas said a strong DPS presence is key in helping to deter car thieves but admitted, “We are being visible, but we can’t be at every corner by every car; it becomes a serious challenge for us to be everywhere at the same time.”
Sydney Mills, a senior majoring in fine arts, was a victim of a car burglary while on a trip in San Francisco that resulted in the loss of her clothes, textbooks and camera. Since then, Mills said she is particularly careful.
“I normally try not to keep anything in my car. I’m still paranoid,” Mills said. “Most of the time it’s people passing by and seeing something that they can grab. I think if you don’t have anything noticeable, you won’t have your car broken into.”
Gabriel Becerra, a freshman majoring in applied mathematics, said he feels keeping his items out of sight is enough to keep his property safe.
“I’ll cover up anything that looks like something someone would like to steal because, if they can’t see it, then they won’t think there is anything there,” he said. “They don’t want to take a chance breaking into a car where there isn’t anything worth taking.”
DPS suggests keeping any portable device or valuable items, including loose change, in trunks. Carlisle said burglars will not take the time to try to open a trunk if they can’t see that there is anything of value inside.
Carlisle said it only takes seconds for burglars to break into a car, but they won’t bother breaking in if they are not sure something is there.
“Usually they break into cars when they see something of value inside,” said Carlisle.
Thomas hopes the combined efforts of the community and the high visibility of DPS will make the burglars go elsewhere.
“Our goal is to have the bad guys think that we are everywhere,” said Thomas. “We want to send a message to the perpetrators that this area is being watched.”