The start of fall semester has brought the usual influx of commuters along with an increase of hit and runs and vehicle thefts on campus.
Between Aug. 25 and Sept. 26, 49% of crimes reported to University Police have been vehicle related. These incidents can also go unreported as students may not notice the damage right away or feel that filing a police report is not worth the hassle.
Architecture student Mary Yesayan returned to a scratch on her vehicle on Aug. 30 but said she did not file a police report because there are no cameras in the M lot that would show what happened.
“After class you don’t know in what state you will find it (your car). Also, the parking spaces seem to be narrower than usual in parking (lot) M,” Yesayan said.
There are several precautions students can take to keep their car safe when parking on campus, according to University Police Chief Linh Dinh.
“Try to park in heavily trafficked areas. When you park somewhere isolated, kind of out of view, it provides an opportunity for things to happen that may not be seen readily from folks passing by,” Dinh said.
Dinh encourages students to ensure vehicles are locked and look through the windows for any visible valuables. This includes backpacks, electronics and personal items. Dinh inspects his own car before leaving it and when he returns.
“I’ll circle around to see any dents or any damage to the vehicle or anything suspicious or out of the ordinary before I get into the vehicle,” Dinh said.
There is a growing TikTok trend of Hyundai and Kia vehicle thefts affecting surrounding areas and the campus. The University Police issued a public bulletin about the trend in an Instagram post. Thefts are being caused by certain models that do not have an ignition immobilizer, which prevents cars from being started without the key present.
“I can’t say that it’s for sure they were stolen by this TikTok trend because if you come out and the vehicle is gone, you don’t know how it was accessed,” said Dinh.
Kia and Hyundai are facing a class-action lawsuit in Orange County due to the defects. This trend has gone viral and is spreading beyond California. According to Dinh, devices such as steering wheel and brake pedal locks can be used to prevent someone from driving away with the vehicle.
“Accidents don’t happen to everyone every day, and I’ve been on campus for five years. This was the only incident that happened. However, the lack of parking is something that I face every day,” said Yesayan.
According to engineering student Ryan Li, his father’s Subaru WRX got dented and scratched in the Q Lot last semester. Li did not file a police report since the damage was minor but now takes precaution when parking on campus.
“I always try to park under a light source. I trust it a lot more in a well-illuminated area. When there is parking, at least,” said Li.
According to Dinh, if a student is a victim of a vehicle theft or accident, they should call the police and allow an officer to assess the situation. Students should take photos, survey the area and take note of what pattern or direction the vehicle is headed.
Then UPD can carry out their investigative process and file a report that is necessary for insurance purposes.
If a student is victim to a hit and run, they should record information, take pictures of the vehicle driving away and the plate if possible.
“We could use our resources to try to track down the registered owner of the vehicle,” said Dinh.
The UPD can then make a report documenting damage or loss to the individual, which is necessary for insurance purposes.
The campus community is encouraged to report any suspicious activity to the University Police Department at 909-869-3070.