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UNM report: Auto thefts up 39% from 2015 to 2016

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Roberto E. Rosales/Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque’s auto theft epidemic has not spared the University of New Mexico.

The state’s largest university saw a 39 percent increase in motor vehicle theft from 2015 to 2016 — and the cases have nearly quadrupled since 2014, according to a new campus safety report.

Officials say the uptick reflects citywide trends. The Albuquerque metro area has the nation’s highest per-capita rate of auto thefts, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. More than 10,000 vehicles were reported stolen in the metro area in 2016, the bureau reported. That marked a 50 percent year-over-year increase.

“We’re just seeing a repercussion of that on campus,” said Lt. Trace Peck of the University of New Mexico Police Department.

UNM saw 141 motor vehicle thefts in 2016, according to its newest Clery report, a federally mandated rundown of crime statistics and campus security measures. That’s up from 88 in 2015 and 32 in 2014. But it’s not a direct comparison — reporting practices were expanded to include “attempted” auto thefts in summer 2016, said Rob Burford, who oversees Clery Act compliance for the university.

UNM actually had 122 vehicle thefts and 19 “attempted” thefts, according to a Sept. 22 letter that UNMPD Chief Kevin McCabe wrote to the campus community.

“There’s a problem — there’s definitely a problem with motor vehicle thefts, and I tell the parents that during summer orientation,” Burford said.

The problem is apparent on the UNMPD’s online crime log, which on Monday listed five reported cases of “unlawful taking of a motor vehicle” in the past week alone.

Peck said the department tries to combat theft by boosting the security presence in the hardest hit areas, and by installing cameras in parking lots and garages. He said officials “are working on increasing the budget” to expand the surveillance program, which he said could help police identify chronic perpetrators.

“We think we’re being hit by the same people over and over again,” he said. “If we get these people on our radar and we’re able to identify these people, at least we know what to look for.”

He would not identify the most problematic lots, but said some are “safer than others due to the proximity to the university and how much … people are walking through the lots.”

UNM’s 2016 safety report also shows growth in “dating violence.” There were 23 such incidents reported, up from five in 2015 and one in 2014.

Burford attributed some of the spike to better distinguishing dating violence from domestic violence, which it now reserves for incidents involving more permanent relationships. Domestic violence incidents dropped to 10 from 21.

In the sexual assault categories, UNM reported 14 rapes, up from 12 — 10 occurring in on-campus student housing.

The university did see a significant reduction in burglaries, which fell to 28 cases from 49.

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