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NMSU PD reports rise in bike theft and burglaries

With the spring 2024 semester in full swing at New Mexico State University, returning students and members of faculty should consider being extra vigilant when it comes to the safety of their personal belongings. According to the deputy chief of the NMSU Police Department, Justin Dunivan, property crimes accounted for a significant number of the offenses reported on campus in 2023, specifically auto burglaries and bike thefts.

According to the NMSU Police Department crime-trend analysis, 92% of incidents on campus are related to crimes of opportunity, including bike theft and burglaries. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

One of the many preventative measures that NMSUPD is taking includes the police department conducting a monthly crime-trend analysis to determine the emerging crime patterns on campus. “One of the things that we determined is that over 92% are all related to crimes of opportunity,” Dunivan said. “What I mean by that is it’s related to people leaving their vehicles unlocked. Suspects, unfortunately, are able to walk by, they try the lock, it’s unlocked, and they reach in and grab something, and then they’re gone.” 

The uptick in crimes of opportunity was not a shock to NMSU journalism student, Lillianna Munoz. “I am surprised that auto burglaries happen on campus, but not shocked due to the amount of vehicles that are on campus and the possible valuables students and staff may have in their vehicles,” Munoz said. “This does worry me because my car is constantly here on campus.” 

In addition to making sure that students and faculty are securing their vehicles, Dunivan also stressed the importance of making sure that any valuable items, including key fobs and garage door openers, are kept hidden from plain sight of potential suspects. He also suggests parking in well-lit areas with clear surveillance or camera monitoring.

According to the deputy chief of the NMSU Police Department, Justin Dunivan, property crimes accounted for a significant number of the offenses reported on campus in 2023. (Photo courtesy of Las Cruces Police Department)

“If people leave valuable items on their seat, or in plain view, it provides the opportunity for people to bust a window, reach in and grab a laptop computer or anything else of evidentiary value from inside, and then leave,” Dunivan said. “So, we asked for a lot of our students, faculty and staff on campus to make sure that those valuable items are either stowed away or that they properly secure their vehicles because that’s a huge percentage if over 92% [of crimes reported] relate to that. One crime trend that we saw relates to most people leaving the door that’s going from their garage to their residence unlocked. When someone was able to acquire a garage door opener, the garage door is open, [and] they have direct access into the residence so we’re trying to take that more proactive approach.”

Another measure the police department is utilizing is how it handles domestic disputes on campus. “Anything that’s related to domestic violence, harassment, stalking or sexual assault we’re always going to see that there’s going to be more of an emphasis because it affects someone personally,” Dunivan said. “Just like with anything [dealing] with harassment or stalking, we want to make sure we’re working with the victim. We have our crimes advocate who is very knowledgeable in that realm, and then we can refer to different resources. Do we need to work on a protection order? We call it a TRL, a temporary order of protection or a permanent protection order where we can have that victim’s advocate assist in that process making sure the victim understands what options they have moving forward.” 

Another thing that students and staff who get around campus on bicycles might want to consider is the quality of the lock they use when securing their bikes. “Related to our bicycle thefts, one of the things that we see is a lot, not all, but a lot relate to the cable locks,” Dunivan said. “The cable locks are very easily cut, so if we can make a recommendation for students specifically, but also faculty and staff members, it is to use the U-bolt or U-lock. It’s much more efficient and it can prevent some of those bicycle thefts.”  

Students can register their bicycles on campus and read about bike safety on the NMSUPD website. The police department also encourages students and faculty to call 911 or 575-646-3311 if they notice something suspicious. 

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