Annual security report shows increase in motor vehicle theft

On the morning of Oct. 4, Ian Ashley, health sciences major, woke up to several credit card alerts about unusual activity on his card, a credit card that he used to keep in the center console of his truck. He went outside to check on his 2006 GMC Sierra, and he realized it was happening again. This time his car was stolen, and not just broken into.

“You know you’ve got a problem with the school you go to when the amount of times your car has been broken into exceeds the number of years you’ve been going to that school,” Ashley said.

Last fall semester, thieves broke into Ashley’s truck while it was parked at the Consortium Library. This semester, Ashley’s car was parked in the residential campus when it was stolen.

“From the security footage I saw, my truck was probably that big,” Ashley said as he held his fingers a centimeter apart. “And even if the truck was right on top of the camera, the quality is so bad you probably couldn’t even tell who it was. It’s not preventing anyone from stealing cars, these cameras that we’ve got right now.”

Around 3 p.m. on Wednesday — the day Ashley filed a police report — he got a call that the police had found his truck using his credit card statement. Ashley said the condition of the car was “borderline totaled.” His truck was covered in dirt and twigs, the front bumper was gone, the rear driver side window was smashed in, the ignition was missing, the fenders were busted and the damage goes on.

“I love this truck, and I hate the idea of selling it out of fear because of the environment I live in,” Ashley said. “This school has to do something. They have to put up more preventative measures because we pay to park here. I give them money to park here and there’s no protection if it gets stolen.”

Ashley said he feels he will have to go to more extreme measures to protect his truck like putting a lock on the steering wheel or selling the truck and buying one that is less likely to be stolen. Leaving his truck locked, the keys on his person and with a fully functioning alarm system hasn’t saved Ashley from getting his truck broken into or stolen.

“I just hope that more people do that to prevent them from the stress that I’ve been involved with this past couple of days,” Ashley said.

Photo credit: Jian Bautista

Ashley is not the only UAA student to deal with stolen vehicles on campus property. Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct and Ethical Development, Michael Votava, is responsible for compiling the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. Votava said motor vehicle thefts on campus have increased more than any other reportable crime or conduct violation.

“The one that jumps out the most is going to be the motor vehicle thefts,” Votava said. “We went from one motor vehicle theft on the Anchorage campus in 2014-2015 to 12 in 2016.”

Votava said the Clery Act — the legislation that mandates college campuses must report certain crimes — defines motor vehicle theft as all attempted or stolen vehicles.

“There weren’t actually 12 motor vehicle thefts that occurred. [The] motor vehicle theft category counts attempted motor vehicle thefts and motor vehicle thefts. But there were 12 vehicles that were stolen or attempted to be stolen, and several of these motor vehicle thefts occurred in the same night,” Votava said. “So there weren’t 12 different dates that vehicles were stolen, but there were up to 12 vehicles that were affected over a smaller number of nights.”

University Police Department Lieutenant Michael Beckner said officers have increased patrols in parking lots around campus, but that there have already been five attempted or stolen vehicles this year. Beckner said GMC or Chevy vehicles, like Ashley has, are one of the most common targets of theft.

“You’re going to see throughout the years on the Clery Report — the Annual Security Report — you’re going to see an increase and decrease throughout the years,” Beckner said. “It doesn’t mean that crime’s worse or that campus is more unsafe than it was the year before… We’re in the middle of a city and our crime trends are going to tend to follow the city. I think our police department does an outstanding job patrolling. We’re staying on the streets. We’re seen throughout housing and campus.”

Beckner said thieves are not UAA students or UAA affiliated.

“We’re in a bad neighborhood and they do nothing to prevent these cars from getting stolen,” Ashley said. “It happens all the time and I don’t think they care, honestly. Because I can understand it costs money to put up cameras. I get that, and they’ve got to get the money from somewhere, but they can’t keep letting resident’s cars get stolen.”