In anticipation of the usual increase in vehicle-related crimes over the Thanksgiving and Winter breaks, the Department of Public Safety is encouraging students to use its gift of free parking.
The Group Initiative For Theft-prevention is an annual crime-prevention campaign that attempts to reduce the amount of vehicle burglaries and motor vehicle thefts in the USC community during extended university breaks.
Free parking is offered to students, staff and faulty in the University Park Campus Parking Center and the Biggy Parking Structure at the Health Sciences Campus.
“Criminals know that most students will be off campus during break,” DPS Crime Prevention Specialist Wyman Thomas said. “Students leave vehicles on streets or in their apartments and come back after breaks to find them burglarized or even stolen.”
GIFT will be offered from Nov. 24 to Nov. 29 during Thanksgiving break, and Dec. 13 through Jan. 10 for Winter Recess.
Those wishing to take advantage of the program will need a USCard to pick up a parking pass at DPS headquarters in Parking Structure A, beginning Nov. 17.
Students will also have access to a free shuttle service to Los Angeles International Airport by reservation.
Since the introduction of GIFT in 2005, there has been a 65 percent reduction in vehicle-related crime on both USC campuses, Thomas said, as well as a 79 percent reduction in auto burglaries (vehicles that have been broken into) and a 67 percent reduction in grand theft auto (when a suspect steals a vehicle).
Although those statistics are an improvement, according to DPS records, four auto burglaries were reported and one automobile was reported stolen during the 2009 holiday break.
Still, DPS officials said the program helps protect student vehicles.
“What’s great about the UPC Parking Center is that there will be heightened security when you leave your vehicle in the structure. We have officers who are stationed in the lot to help reduce any suspicious activity,” DPS Capt. David Carlisle said.
Most students who will end up using GIFT are out-of-state students or those who live farther away from campus, he said.
Funmi Akinyode, a sophomore from Washington, D.C. majoring in broadcast and digital journalism, said she plans to use GIFT.
“After my friend’s car was broken into one night on the street, I’m a little skeptical about where I leave my car,” Akinyode said. “I have parking outside my apartment, but I have less chances of something happening to my car when it’s inside an actual parking structure.”
Carlisle said students who park near campus should take precautions over breaks.
“If students do leave a car on campus, they should park it in a well-lit area with no valuables visible,” Carlisle said. “Anything of value should be locked in the trunk. There are criminals who will break the window of a car just for small change.”