The winter semester has been a time of adjustment for students at Grand Valley State University.
However, one adjustment the students did not expect to make was to protect their vehicles from theft. In recent weeks, student cars parked in off-campus housing estates have been broken into and damaged.
Since the majority of GVSU students live in off-campus apartments or choose to commute to school, burglaries have become a pressing issue for the entire community.
Senior Caitlyn Webber was one of the first students to report a vehicle break-in at the 48 West apartment complex. After witnessing multiple break-ins in the same night, Webber posted on Facebook to warn other residents.
“They broke into two of my neighbor’s cars and stole everything, then attempted a car right outside our house,” Webber said.
These off-campus incidents in Allendale reflect a larger trend in the greater Grand Rapids area that began two years ago.
In addition to car break-ins, the Grand Rapids Police Department is struggling to control car thefts. From 2019 to 2020, the number of car theft in the city fell from 298 to 803. In 2021, the number fell to 792.
In that time, GRPD has gone from responding to an average of less than one car theft per day, to more than two.
Since the beginning of 2022, there have been 114 reports of break-ins and vehicle thefts, as well as 80 additional reports of motor vehicle thefts in Grand Rapids.
In order to prevent flights of this ability from beginning in Allendale, students must take action, but also prioritize their own safety.
Grand Valley Police Officer Leah Heaton said keeping students informed is key to limiting such break-ins, damage and other illegal activities.
“If you see a vehicle break-in or any criminal activity call 911, never approach or confront anyone you suspect of committing a crime and give the dispatcher a physical description and direction of travel and wait for the police to respond,” Heaton said.
When it comes to off-campus vehicle break-ins, students living at 48 West and other apartment complexes can take comfort in the fact that Grand Valley and Ottawa County Police Services are investigating at their subject.
In past cases, the use of evidence provided by students like Webber and the use of technology installed on and off campus have helped police prevent further offenses from occurring.
“We have cameras in parking lots that can be used to track suspects and have obtained confessions based on camera investigations,” Heaton said.
While it’s promising that these crimes are being professionally investigated, that doesn’t mean students should let their guard down.
Heaton advises students to always take certain precautions to ensure the safety of their vehicles and property.
“Park in well-lit areas if possible, always lock your vehicle, and remove or hide any valuables from the vehicle,” Heaton said.
If you encounter an emergency, call 911.
For other campus-related issues, the Grand Valley Police Department can be contacted at 616-331-3325. For more information, students can visit https://www.gvsu.edu/safety/.