Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Statistics released last week by the University of New Mexico Police Department suggest that the number of on-campus auto thefts and attempted auto thefts reported to UNM police in 2018 decreased significantly compared to on-campus thefts reported the prior year.
According to the UNM Police Department, 121 incidents of auto theft and attempted auto theft occurred on-campus and were reported to campus police in 2018, a decrease of 41 percent from the prior year. In 2017, there were 206 on-campus auto thefts reported to UNM police. The figures do not include thefts reported to UNM Hospital Security or to the Albuquerque Police Department.
UNM led the nation in auto thefts on college campuses in recent years, according to data submitted under the Clery Act, but the school won’t know how 2018 numbers compare nationally until October. While the recent numbers cover on-campus reports, the Clery numbers cover a wider range, including UNM Health Sciences campus.
UNM police credit last year’s drop in on-campus reports to several initiatives instituted in recent years.
Among the initiatives cited by Lt. Trace Peck, a UNM police spokesman, is the department’s participation in an auto-theft task force with other area law enforcement agencies.
“When the numbers came out and the articles came out about UNM being No. 1 in the nation, UNM and APD got together and said, ‘We do have a problem here and what kind of resources can you help us with?’ ” Peck said. “APD had doubled the amount of bait cars and utilized our area … so that really helped us out.”
UNM has also expanded its use of cameras in parking lots, including at Dreamstyle Stadium and the Pit.
“The video surveillance that we have now around all athletics has really made an impact,” Peck said. “I don’t know of a vehicle that was stolen in the last year and a half from an athletic event, which is huge.”
During a town hall in April, President Garnett Stokes said UNM is budgeting about $500,000 a year for six years for security cameras and lighting. She also authorized the purchase of a new mobile security unit, like those at shopping malls during the holidays.
In addition, UNM student leaders secured nearly $126,000 from the Legislature for new lighting. Students also backed a tuition hike for the current fiscal year in part because new revenue will help fund equipment and personnel related to campus safety.
Noting the university’s success in using cameras to trim auto theft at the university’s athletic venues, UNM Police Chief Kevin McCabe said the school is pursuing legislative funding for cameras at all 39 campus parking lots.
“What we’re trying to do is make UNM a less attractive place to steal cars,” McCabe said. “The hope is to take that same technology and put it into all of our parking lots. Since President Stokes came here, she did her listening tour (with students, staff and faculty members) and learned that campus safety was a big concern. She’s been nothing but proactive since and I think coming from the top down has made a difference in the whole campus community.”
The recent UNM police figures differ from the crime data submitted under the Clery Act, which include incidents at:
• Non-campus buildings not reasonably contiguous to the main campus, but are leased or owned by UNM;
• Public property that is immediately adjacent to the main campus;
• Public property within or immediately adjacent to the campus.
In 2017, there were 222 incidents of auto theft and attempted auto theft in the Clery Act report. Statistics for 2018, which will include figures from UNM Hospital Security and APD, will not be available until this fall.
But in addition to the initiatives at the main campus, security officers at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences campus are beefing up nighttime security.
Ryan Reynolds, group manager for capital projects at the UNM Health Sciences Center, said two security officers will patrol North Campus seven days a week, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., to enhance student safety.
“We want to make sure that students feel safe,” Reynolds said in a statement. “We want them to focus on their studies, and that’s what a campus should be about. That’s the kind of the learning environment we want to promote here.”
Two officers will walk the core of the UNM Health Sciences Center campus, the lower plaza and all three floors of the Domenici Center for Health Sciences Education, because the building is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
â€‹”We feel that would increase student safety, especially at night,” Reynolds said. “It’s dark over here on the Health Sciences Center side. We have a lot of students who are working on call in the hospital; they’re walking back and forth between the plazas at odd hours. We want to make sure that they are safe and are able to use the facilities.”