NIU sees increase of ‘smash-and-grabs’

By Chelsey Boutan

When sophomore journalism major Katie Finlon went to unlock her car Friday morning, her roommate asked, “Where did your mirrors go?”

Finlon and her roommate joked they should put aluminum foil where the rearview mirrors were so she could still drive her car to class.

“I won’t be able to drive my car for weeks,” Finlon said. “I have to buy new mirrors, and a lot of the parts on my car are discontinued.”

According to the NIU police blotter, 48 burglary and 33 criminal damage cases involving cars occurred from Aug. 16 to Sept. 29.

The most common items stolen were GPSs, iPods, purses, bags, wallets, money and change. Broken windshields and windows were the most common damages.

NIU Police Sgt. Alan Smith said he couldn’t divulge any potential leads or suspects because the investigation is ongoing.

“There’s a lot of smash-and-grabs going on,” Smith said. “I’ve been watching the news to see that it’s not just isolated to NIU.”

DeKalb Police Lt. Gary Spangler said the number of burglaries from cars in DeKalb has remained consistent compared to last year.

“[Car burglaries] occur all over town, but the majority of them do occur in the college area because there is a denser population and more cars there,” Spangler said.

There are more burglaries on campus compared to previous years, but NIU police have increased patrols on shifts and show more of a presence in the parking lots, Smith said.

The highest number of car break-ins occurred in Lot C2, with 14 burglary cases and seven criminal damage cases from Aug. 16 to Sept. 29.

Remote lots are ample ground for break-ins because there isn’t much foot traffic in the evenings and few people are in lots while class is in session, Smith said.

If a break-in victim doesn’t immediately report the incident a case may be administratively closed, Smith said. This may also occur if there are no witnesses.

“Administratively closed doesn’t mean the case is closed,” Smith said. “We still follow-up and make connections.”

Smith said students, faculty and staff can decrease the chances of having their car broken into by leaving items out of plain sight.

“There’s no way to blame the victim, because even if you leave your wallet or purse in the car, that doesn’t give anybody the right to come by and steal it,” Smith said. “We’re just advocating that they take extra precautions.”

The majority of car break-ins typically occur at the beginning of the semester because many people leave valuables in their cars early in the semester, Smith said. On Aug. 25, there were 23 burglary and criminal damage cases involving cars.

“Just know that we are doing everything we can to decrease the amount of break-ins and to catch the person or people responsible for it,” Smith said.