Police increase patrols, thefts continue in Lot 6

Seven seems to be an unlucky number for students parking their cars in Lot 6.

Since August 19, seven vehicles have gone missing from the campus’ largest parking deck, baffling police and administrators, and leaving frustrated students wondering where their vehicles have gone.

The most recent theft occurred between Oct. 20 at 10 a.m. and Oct. 21 at 5:30 a.m., when an off-campus resident’s 1995 Honda Accord was reported missing from Lot 6. Campus Police were unable to locate the vehicle and drove the student home.

As of press time, the crime spree has also netted thieves a 1998 Nissan, two 1994 Saturns, a 1997 Honda Accord, a 1998 Jeep and a Saturn of unknown model and year, according to police reports.

According to Campus Police Chief John Collins, the department increased patrols when they became aware of the thefts in September. Police have also begun to check the license plates of any vehicles lacking valid decals in the gated lots throughout campus.

Campus Police Administrative Sgt. Michael Bell refused to comment on the most recent string of thefts without the approval of Collins, who was on vacation as of press time.

However, Matt Golden, executive director of Public Relations and Communications, said the College is doing everything it can to thwart the thieves.

“The motor vehicle thefts that have occurred on campus this semester are being investigated aggressively, and we understand the frustration of those individuals who have been victimized. We are determined to apprehend whoever has perpetrated these crimes,” Golden said in a prepared statement. “I cannot discuss, however, specific investigative procedures that are being or may be employed without compromising their effectiveness and hindering the efforts of (Campus Police).”

Campus Police cornered a suspect Sept. 10, when they noticed a car stolen from West Windsor in Lot 6. However, when police tried to apprehend the driver, he sped off, exiting campus on Carlton Avenue. Ewing Police were notified, but the suspect was not caught. The College prohibits Campus Police from pursuing suspects off-campus.

“With regard to non-pursuit, engagement in high-speed vehicle pursuit could place members of our community in harm’s way, and the safety of people always supersedes the protection of property,” Golden said.

Four of the stolen cars, a Honda, Nissan, Saturn and Jeep, have been recovered, but according to police reports, they turned up far from campus. The recovered vehicles were scattered throughout Trenton, West Windsor, Morrisville, Pa., and Bucks County, Pa.

Four of the seven cars that have been stolen from campus were either Hondas or Nissans.

On Aug. 15, Lawrenceville police also apprehended a suspect in posession of a stolen 1996 Nissan Maxima, a burglary kit and a set of 10 skeleton keys for Hondas, Nissans and Acuras.

The suspect, a 22-year-old Trenton resident, was charged with receiving stolen property and possession of motor vehicle master keys, third and fourth degree felonies, respectively.

The alleged, who according to court records has several theft arrests, pleaded guilty on Oct. 1 to receiving stolen property and was returned to the Mercer County Corrections Center on Oct. 15, where he currently awaits a November sentencing date.

Law enforcement officials have not said there is a link between the suspect’s arrest and the rash of car thefts on campus.

Neither Campus Police nor Golden would comment directly on the skeleton keys, but when asked if skeleton keys could make preventing thefts more difficult, Golden said: “That certainly would present a challenge, if someone could walk up, unlock a door and drive away. That would make it hard to determine if a crime was even happening.”

Despite the efforts of Campus Police, some students wonder why the police have not done more than simply increase patrols.

“I don’t understand why Lot 6 has no surveillance when parking lots are hot spots for crime,” Jillian Alvarado, senior criminal justice major, said. “Why is it our library and (Brower Student Center) have surveillance, but our parking lots, where crimes are being committed, does not? It doesn’t seem like student safety is a priority on this campus.”

James Queally can be reached at queally2@tcnj.edu.