Vehicle-related thefts and burglaries down from recent years, but still happening at Augustana

This fall, there have been over 14 counts of theft. Nine out of 10 of these were vehicle-related crimes.

According to Rick Tupper, Associate Vice President for Campus Safety, these numbers are down from previous years. If the weather is nice, car burglaries tend to increase for the first four-to-six weeks that students are back on campus in the fall. 

Augustana Campus Safety officials report on both theft and burglaries from vehicles. In other words, stolen items along with breaking and entering are reported. According to South Dakota statutes, breaking into a car is considered a burglary. However, federal statutes do not consider this a burglary. According to FBI Uniform Crime Reporting, this is considered theft from a vehicle. 

Over the past few years, junior Cassidy Waggoner’s Kia Forte and Chevy Cobalt were broken into three times in total. Two out of three of them occurred here on campus. Both were in the fall and occurred in the late afternoon.

Both times on campus, Waggoner’s wallet and coin jar were stolen out of her console. The only item returned from these occurrences was Waggoner’s license, which had been thrown on the front porch of her home off campus by the suspect(s).

When Waggoner was in highschool and her vehicle was broken into, the suspect(s) even took the garage door opener to her house. 

Each time Waggoner’s car was left unlocked. Waggoner did not report any of these burglaries to Campus Safety or to the police. 

“I told my mom and my friends,” Waggoner said. “I didn’t really do anything about it because I didn’t know who to talk to.”

According to Tupper, locking a vehicle and making sure items in the vehicle are out of sight are vital. 

“These were all real crimes of opportunity,” Tupper said. “In one night, there were three. They were just walking through the parking lot and trying car doors.” 

Tupper said deterrence is necessary because burglars can end up destroying or harming property as well.

 “It might be a $40 item, but the bad guy is going to break out your $200 window to steal your $40 item,” Tupper said. 

Senior Becky Hicks’ Jetta Volkswagen was broken into twice in the past year on campus. The first burglary occurred November 2019, and the second occurrence was this June. Both occurred on Summit Avenue near the Svendsbye Apartment Complex.

After the first burglary, Hicks noticed that her seat had been shifted, there was a bag full of clothes to be donated to Goodwill that was torn open, and her loose change was gone. Her car was left unlocked due to electrical issues.

Hicks said after the second burglary, every time she would start her vehicle, the trunk would open. 

“The first time I heard it open, I was like ‘Omg, there is someone in my trunk!’” Hicks said. Fortunately for Hicks, no one was in the trunk. 

The second time nothing was stolen. However, there was a wrench kit open in the passenger seat. Hicks is not sure how the suspect(s) got into the vehicle because this time it was locked.

“A couple of weeks later, I was driving, and I saw a hole in the ceiling [fabic] of my car,” Hicks said. “The suspect(s) also did the same thing to the passenger light near the front of the car. I don’t know if they thought I stored something in there, but none of the lights were stolen.” 

Hicks did report to Campus Safety after the first burglary in November. However, there were no cameras facing Summit where the burglaries occurred since it is a city street. 

Hicks then decided not to file a police report since there was no video evidence of the burglary.

“Cameras are a deterrent if people know they are there,” Tupper said. “However, we have over 100 cameras on campus.” 

  Cameras can be reactive as well because it is not possible for someone to watch 100 cameras at one time, Tupper said.

If someone reports the crime after it has happened, however, the cameras are always recording, so there is a chance the suspect(s) could be caught. Campus Safety immediately will write an incident report and check the cameras.

No one has been caught for the crimes yet this fall.

Tupper suggests that all students report the crime to Campus Safety and file a police report, which can be done online so the police can trace the crimes as they occur. This helps to create a timeline and may link the crimes. 

“Do not keep anything valuable in your car and try to park in areas where you can assure there are cameras and lights,” Hicks said. 

For a timeline of incidents that have occurred on campus over the last 60 days click here.

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