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UPD ‘Vehicle Break-in Report Card’ checks aim to prevent car theft and break-ins

University police gives out ‘easy A’s’ in larceny patrol

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University Police Lieutenant David Urbanek said when he came to UB in 1987, he would see people walking through the parking lots checking cars.

They were looking for easy money.

“I remember doing dorm openings and seeing guys walking in from the neighborhood, just sitting down and watching,” Urbanek said. “You leave your stuff unattended … they take it.”

UPD conducts ‘Vehicle Break-in Report Card’ checks on vehicles on campus to make sure they’re not susceptible to break-ins or theft. The checks give drivers a failing or passing mark. Patrols look to make sure vehicles do not have valuables in plain view, keys left inside or open windows, among other things that could make the car a target for thieves.

“[The check] takes a few seconds, which is as quick as a potential thief would take your things,” Urbanek said.

Since 2008, UPD has done major checks on vehicles. September is its “big effort” month while the spring checks are more of a measurement to see if the percentage that failed in the fall has dropped, according to Urbanek. UPD checked 5,474 vehicles on North and South Campuses in September 2014 and 829 failed.

Urbanek runs the permits of every car that fails the check and sends each one an email with a crime prevention message.

UPD has reported two vehicle break-ins so far in 2015 and there were four vehicle break-ins in 2014, according to Josh Sticht, deputy chief of police. There were six motor vehicle thefts reported on campus in 2011, four in 2012 and four in 2013, according to UB’s crime statistics.

The Break-in Report Card program was developed and initiated by former UPD patrolman Wayne Colton, currently an investigator with UPD, in the spring of 2008. Colton noticed a spike in vehicle break-ins on campus and nationwide, which he attributed to the increase of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in more vehicles.

With just a few vehicle break-ins reported at UB in the last few years, Colton said that vehicle break-ins have “pretty much been eliminated from campus.”

The effort is not just a crime prevention effort, but also an effort to slightly change human behavior, Urbanek said.

“We do a lot of preventative stuff so [students and visitors] don’t have a negative consequence which would make their experience here negative,” Urbanek said.

Urbanek said a patrol once spotted a vehicle with its windows rolled down and keys and a cell phone in plain sight. He said that the patrol doing the check tried to contact the owner of the vehicle, but the phone was in the car.

“[UPD] waited with the vehicle until the student returned,” Urbanek said. “They could have taken everything.”

Jenna Schratz, a senior health and human services major, said she’s received one report card in her four years at UB.

“I thought it was funny I failed … but it made me a little more cautious,” Schatz said. “It’s a thoughtful gesture on UB’s part.”

Nicholas Gross, a sophomore environmental design major, passed his vehicle break-in report card and said the program was a good idea to keep people aware of not leaving out their valuables.

“[The program] will stop people from leaving valuables in plain sight and easy to steal,” Gross said.

Madeline Bartels, a senior biology and psychology major, said that while she’s not sure the program is necessary, she does think it’s helpful. She said there are a lot of people that are naïve about what they leave in plain sight in their cars.

“It is an eye-opener for some kids to see there are people who will go around and steal things from cars,” Bartels said.

Bartels said she got annoyed about the report cards after she got more than one on her car in a few months time.

“I started to wonder what UPD is actually doing all day besides giving these reports,” she said.

UPD also provides a patrol of all the parking lots on the campuses.

“We are not deterring from other duties, we can still take calls [while checking cars],” Urbanek said “We are deterring thieves, whoever they may be … It’s about theft prevention.”

Urbanek said that this program is helping to improve the quality of life across campus by reducing crime and theft. UPD wants to encompass more and grow as an intellectual institution, according to Urbanek.

“[We] are always asking how can we better serve the people that we have?” Urbanek said. “[When checking cars], we’re not out to get someone.”

Another preventative effort UPD takes is checking dorm room doors to see if they are open and unattended. UPD has been doing this for the past five years in first- and second-year dorms on North and South Campuses. If the door is unattended, UPD will leave a door tag on the outside and inside of door.

“Nobody wants their stuff stolen,” Urbanek said.

Charles W. Schaab is an assistant news editor and can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com


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