Campus police warn students about vehicle theft

Vehicle theft on campus may not be anything new, but campus police are still suggesting to students to take precautions.

Since 2001, the amount of vehicles stolen on campus has stayed fairly consistent with about 17 to 19 reported cases a year. Surprisingly, there were eight cases alone last month.

“If it happens once, it’s one too many times,” said University of Utah Police Department Detective Michael McPharlin.

McPharlin said the most frequently hit areas are the Merrill Engineering lot, the stadium lot and the LDS Institute of Religion lot, probably because it is convenient to get in and out of the lots and onto busy streets.

In addition, McPharlin said car thefts occur most frequently between 9 a.m. to about 2 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Most night thefts occur in the residence hall parking lots.

The most targeted types of cars stolen on campus in the last six months, according to McPharlin, were Hondas and Toyotas. This was true for engineering student Dien Nguyen.

Nguyen said during the late afternoon of April 1 he parked in the Merrill Engineering lot. Five hours later, the car was gone with no trace except his car mat.

“It was literally a scene from ‘Dude, Where’s My Car?'” Nguyen said.

Nguyen said afterward he walked to the Union front desk where the receptionist asked him if it could have been a possible April Fool’s joke. Nguyen said he did not think so and called campus police.

McPharlin said that same day the police found a previously stolen car parked 100 feet from where Nguyen’s car was stolen. McPharlin’s theory is that the thief or thieves took the previously stolen car to the Merrill Engineering lot and abandoned it, and then proceeded to take Nguyen’s car.

“More and more, we’re seeing that the cars are being stolen and parts are being removed from the cars. Then the car is abandoned,” McPharlin said.

Nguyen’s car was eventually found in northwest Salt Lake City. Nguyen said he was surprised the car was stolen because there was not anything particularly valuable in the car. The car was missing some headlights, a jacket and a Wal-Mart desk fan.

McPharlin said students should be aware of how cars get broken into and what usually gets stolen. He said usually the window gets smashed or pried open.

The most common valuables that are stolen are stereos, amplifiers and engine parts, McPharlin said.

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