Urgent Vehicle Crime Advisory

(Sent to PLU Community 2/25/2022)

Dear PLU Community, 

As you are likely aware,PLU has experienced  a recent increase in vehicle related crimes on campus. Please read this advisory for current information on what is happening at PLU and in the Western Washington region. Also included is advice on how you can better protect your property and contribute to the safety of the university environment.  

Increase in Vehicle Related Crimes

The PLU campus has seen a significant increase in vehicle related crimes in campus parking lots and adjacent streets this academic year. Property crimes, including vehicle related crimes, continue to present a significant challenge for Pierce County as a whole and are a part of an ongoing trend for the area, with Pierce County most recently receiving a “D” grade from crimegrade.org (a crime trend research and analysis organization) for property crime rates overall. At PLU this has translated into a parallel uptick in vehicle related crimes, including car thefts and car break ins. In the fall, a large majority of those crimes were catalytic converter thefts or vehicle thefts. More recently with the start of Spring Semester we are seeing a significant increase in vehicle prowls – smash and grab type thefts or crimes of opportunity where vehicles are left unsecured. 

What is PLU Doing to Address This?

The Campus Safety team at PLU continues to work hard and show dedication to preventing vehicle and other property crimes. These crimes can occur in a matter of moments and a quick identification and response is paramount. Parking lots are equipped with video surveillance cameras which are often monitored live by a Video Officer student worker. Campus Safety Officers patrol in marked vehicles and by foot through all segments of the university. Both efforts help observe any activity in the area and identify suspicious or criminal behavior. Once identified, Campus Safety Officers respond to intervene (as personal safety allows) or contact law enforcement, regularly interrupting potential vehicle crime. In situations where Campus Safety is not able to identify or intervene, staff work to inform impacted community members in a timely manner and help connect them with resources for reporting to law enforcement. 

In addition to these measures, additional capacities for identification and intervention of vehicle related crimes continue to be put into place. PLU contracts sheriff’s deputies to supplement university patrol presence in the parking lots and streets surrounding campus and in the neighboring Parkland community. We currently are working with PCSD availability to add additional shifts with an emphasis on deterring vehicle related crime. Also, Campus Safety has expanded student worker Video Officer coverage hours and is working on hiring additional staff in this position. If you are interested in working with Campus Safety and taking a direct role in addressing vehicle crimes and other safety issues, check the Student Employment Opportunities board for our Video Officer and Safety Officer job openings 

What can you do about this?

Safety and security is a responsibility of everyone in the PLU Community. There are a number of ways that we ask all Lutes to contribute to preventing vehicle crimes. If you see something, say something! Look for concerning behavior and call Campus Safety immediately. Stay in the area (if safe to do so) and keep Campus Safety informed until an officer arrives. DO NOT approach or confront criminal suspects. Behaviors to look out for include:

  • People walking through parking areas between multiple vehicles, looking into windows, trying door handles, etc. 
  • Vehicles driving slowly through parking areas.
  • People, vehicles, or bicycles circling, driving slowly through, or meandering in parking areas. Traveling with no apparent purpose or destination. 
  • Vehicles that stop where a driver remains and a passenger gets out – usually approaching other vehicles.

To protect your own property as an individual, you should always look for ways to remove the opportunity for a would-be thief.   

  • Always lock your vehicle. Double checking can help. Vehicles are commonly found unsecured by thieves.
  • If you own an older vehicle, or one that is commonly stolen, consider adding security devices like a steering wheel lock, ignition cut-off device, etc. Always consult with a professional before modifying your vehicle. 
  • Park in well-lit areas that are under camera surveillance. PLU parking lots (PLU decal required) are equipped with video surveillance cameras .This does not guarantee property protection, but adds a layer of deterrence.
  • If you normally store your vehicle on campus for days or more at a time, check on it periodically and move it. Thieves target vehicles that sit for long periods and appear unattended to. 
  • Do not leave bags, boxes, valuable items, etc. in view in your vehicle – even if you know there isn’t anything of value in them. 
  • Do not keep registration or other identifying information in your vehicle – keep copies on your phone. Occasionally these pieces of information are stolen in combination with garage door openers, providing an address and access to your home. 

The Campus Safety Office is open 24 hours a day. I encourage you to reach out to Campus Safety if you have any questions or concerns. Our office is located in the basement of Harstad Hall on the North side. 

For general assistance, you can reach us at (253) 535-7441.

For emergencies you can reach us at (253) 535-7911.

Thank you for helping to keep PLU Safe, 

Shawn Thompson

Interim Director of Campus Safety