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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Crime

UHPD hopes ‘ticket’ system cuts down car thefts


The UH Department of Public Safety is initiating a new program to help reduce car thefts on campus parking lots.

This new method does not rely on catching criminals but on helping students secure property before a break-in occurs, Assistant Chief of Public Safety Brad Wigtil said.

“What we are trying to do with this program is to team up with the community and try to be proactive about reducing the opportunity for crimes to happen,” he said.

Officers will patrol student and faculty parking lots looking for visible items of value. They will mimic burglars, but instead of stealing your GPS system, officers will leave a report card indicating whether or not you passed the inspection.

“The reason why someone might fail is they might have left a laptop in the backseat or maybe left some money in the console,” Wigtil said.

There is no action taken if a person fails the inspection.  The report card serves merely as a reminder for students to keep valuables out of sight and to secure their vehicles.

Officers will begin their searches this month, leaving report cards on windshields, much like tickets. The cards are cut like a bi-fold, with the pass/fail remarks on the front and contact information on the back in case there is a need to contact the safety officers.

Students may not be aware of how little temptation someone needs to break into a car.  Wigtil, however, said he has seen why people use the phrase petty theft.

“I can remember a juvenile breaking a $200 window to get about 50 cents worth of change off the console,” he said.

The number of vehicles involved in burglaries has remained relatively steady over the past few years. 

 In 2006 and 2008, there were 29 incidents, while in 2007, the number decreased to 17.  Officers see this change, though substantial, as random.  They decided to try the report cards as an experiment.

“There has been no spike in burglary or theft of motor vehicles, but we thought, let’s just initiate this program to see if we can bring that number any lower,” said Wigtil.

The 2009 annual crime report will not be out until September, so it will take some time to see if the new Burglary of Motor Vehicle report cards have done their job in preventing break-ins.

Officers had no evidence that indicated a need to start the program, but after talking in meetings and watching other departments, they decided that it should be tried at UH. 

“One of our police officers, Matthew Wilson … had seen that a couple other law enforcement agencies were using this program, and he thought it might be effective for the University of Houston community,” Wigtil said.

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