UWI confirms spike in motor vehicle break-ins

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The University of the West Indies (UWI) yesterday confirmed what it described as a “spike in reports of vehicle break-ins on the Mona Campus” but said the problem is not confined to that institution.

“Research shows that other institutions have also been targeted,” UWI Director of Security Keith Gardner said in a statement.

Gardner’s statement came after a Jamaica Observer query to the Campus Police was met with a response that they could not disclose information regarding the matter.

The Observer had called the Campus Police after a student told the newspaper that the car he drove had been broken into on Wednesday night.

He said the window was shattered and his laptop taken from the vehicle. He said that when he went to notify the security officer on duty he found her sleeping. When he got her attention she advised him to go to the Campus Police Station.

Upon making a formal report to the Campus Police, he said he was informed that his was the 11th report within two weeks.

“He has late classes on a Wednesday, so in order for them not to rob him out there I gave him the car to drive and be secure,” the student’s mother told the Observer. She said she could not understand how so many vehicle break-ins could take place without any witnesses.

The parent also said that another male student complained that the rear windshield of his vehicle had been broken and a telecommunications tester valued at US$5,000 stolen.

Gardner, in his statement, said that recently a suspect was arrested after an attempt to break into a vehicle on campus was foiled. “Over 40 assorted motor vehicle ignition keys were confiscated from the suspect who is now facing related charges in the Corporate Area Parish Court. There have been anecdotal reports of car break-ins from parking lots at shopping centres, churches, and other public areas,” he said.

Gardner said that the military precision with which vehicle break-ins are committed and the scope of such break-ins — often three or more vehicles in close proximity, both in time and space — suggest that the perpetrators are familiar with the layout of the campus and are in their comfort zone.

“Several security initiatives have been implemented to contain this phenomen. They include sensitisation of the campus community through various means of communication — notices, security advisories, as well as overt and covert physical security measures,” Gardner said.

He said it can be safely concluded that the criminals are acting in groups and are using technology which can detect the presence of electronic equipment left in motor vehicles.

Gardner added that the university security operatives have increased their vigilance in deterring, detecting, detaining, and delaying incidents of vehicle break-ins as well as detaining and prosecuting perpetrators.

— Tmori Tomlinson

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