Police remove theft decoys from campus


UPD cancelled the decoy system implemented to decrease the amount of parking permit thefts on campus after the attempt led to no arrests.

UPD set multiple decoy cars in various parking lots across campus, leaving the windows down or doors unlocked in an attempt to catch someone stealing the permit. After weeks of the personnel intensive watch-out, UPD suspended the operation, UPD Chief Mark Foxworth said.

“It just didn’t prove to be successful at this point,” Foxworth said. “The thefts were all over the board, and we couldn’t pin-point it to a certain area.’

Foxworth said the amount of man-hours needed for such a decoy were too much given the results.

UPD still plans to work closely with Parking Services to ensure the problem doesn’t escalate, he said.

“I don’t think we are seeing more thefts than you would at any major parking area,” Foxworth said. “It’s a compliancy issue. People think it’s so safe they don’t need to lock their doors.”

There have been 38 parking permits reported stolen since Jan. 1, making up 40 percent of all campus thefts, according to UPD reports.

The discount permits were reported stolen most frequently, with the majority of the thefts
occurring in Lots 18 and 10.

Foxworth believes the isolated nature of the lots plays a large role in the number of incidents, he said.

“It’s a simple case where they are not thinking anyone is looking,” Foxworth said. “Lot 18 is probably the winner of the game.”

Attempts were made to contact students who filed reports, but everyone declined to comment.
UPD has made several arrests, but none of the suspects were linked to a pattern of thefts. They were all isolated incidents.

The charge for a stolen parking permit is a simple petty theft, according to UPD.

The thefts have come as a result of the campus community failing to secure their vehicles, and the majority weren’t forced entry, Foxworth said.

The permits are registered to the purchaser, so if Parking Services finds a stolen permit, a boot is placed on the car and UPD is contacted to begin the investigation.

But, Foxworth believes the majority of stolen permits are being sold on the Green or in the halls for a discount, he said.

If students are caught with a stolen permit they purchased, they can still be arrested for a criminal offense, Foxworth said.

The university was in talks last semester of possibly switching to a sticker decal to avoid thefts, but the idea was struck down due to the convenience the hanging decals offer for the car owners, said Vince Smyth, director of Auxiliary Services.

The hanging decals are much easier to transfer from car to car, where a sticker decal would have to be replaced each time, he said.

The university also ordered a sample of a transferable sticker, that doesn’t remain stuck in the traditional sense and can be removed, but that was never a serious option, Smyth said.

“Nothing further is being done,” Smyth said. “But, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is brought up again.”

E-mail Josh Salman at [email protected]