Suspect ID’d in auto thefts

Campus Police are looking for a male wanted for questioning in connection with the semester-long crime spree that has seen seven cars vanish from the school’s largest parking deck.

The suspect, a 20- to 22-year-old male, was spotted driving a stolen blue-green Honda from Lot 6 on Oct. 20.

Police witnessed the 5-foot-8-inch, approximately 170-pound suspect exiting Lot 6 around 2:40 a.m. on Oct. 20. Officers ran the plate number, and the car was reported stolen roughly three hours later. A police sketch to be distributed throughout campus this week says the suspect, who was seen wearing a collared grey jacket, has dark hair and complexion and a medium build.

Campus Police Chief John Collins also confirmed the possibility of the use of “skeleton” keys in the string of thefts.

“We do believe there is at least one set of master keys (in use),” Collins said.

According to Collins, some of the four cars recovered were found with minimal or no damage.

“Some were recovered without damage to their locks or ignition, which leads me to believe (the thief) is using master keys to get into the vehicles, which makes it hard to detect,” Collins said. “We’re losing Nissans, Hondas and Saturns from the mid-1990s.”

Last week The Signal reported that four of the seven cars that disappeared this semester were either Hondas or Nissans. On Aug. 15, a Trenton-area resident was arrested in Lawrenceville, N.J., for receiving stolen property and possession of a set of motor vehicle master keys. The set of master keys on his person included keys for Hondas, Nissans and Saturns. On Oct. 1 the suspect pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property and is currently awaiting sentencing at the Mercer County Correction Center.

Despite the apparent break in the case, Collins said Campus Police will continue to remain vigilant in their supervision of Lot 6. Police beefed up patrols and surveillance of Lot 6 in September when the thefts first began occuring.

“We have been doing surveillance in the parking lots since September on an almost daily basis,” Collins said. “There has been an officer in Lot 6 for the majority of the days since September on varied shifts and hours. We have been running license plates and checking suspicious individuals.”

Collins also responded to the backlash from students who did not believe Campus Police were effectively handling the string of car thefts, insisting the police are doing everything in their power to stop the thefts.

“We’re working very aggressively to apprehend whoever is doing this and to stop it from occurring,” Collins said.

He also acknowledged the possibility of adding security cameras to Lot 6.

“That is under discussion,” Collins said.

Collins sent out a campus-wide e-mail Monday night, further discussing police attempts to handle both the thefts and the shooting incident that took place Saturday morning in Lot 4.

Police are not suggesting that owners of ’90s-era Hondas, Nissans and Saturns park their cars elsewhere, but to take more steps to secure their vehicles.

“People with these makes of cars should invest in anti-theft systems, wheel locks and break locks. It will provide an extra deterrent,” Collins said.

He also asked that students keep an eye out for suspicious activity, and call the Campus Police Headquarters at x2167 if they notice anything out of sorts in Lot 6 or anywhere else on campus.

Finally, Collins addressed students who are concerned about possibly being interrogated in the parking lot.

He said, “Students that are stopped and questioned in the lots should be patient, as we’re doing it to ensure everyone’s safety.”

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