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There were two vehicle burglaries at the Dee Events Center and two more at the trailhead on Skyline Drive, all within 45 minutes of each other on Friday afternoon.
Danielle Murphy, a news reporter with The Signpost, said she had parked her red Chevrolet Aveo in the Dee Events Center parking lot around 10 a.m. and then hopped on the shuttle headed to campus. Close to 2 p.m. she received a text from a friend who had been parked in the stall next to hers, stating her car window had been bashed in.
“After reading the text, I got this gut-wrenching feeling in my stomach and started wondering what I had left in my car to make someone want to do this,” Murphy said.
After riding the shuttle back to the parking lot, she called the Weber State University police and started looking through the mess of broken glass to see what was missing. The only item taken was a purse Murphy said she had left on her front seat that was full of pens and paper, but nothing of value.
“I definitely learned don’t leave valuable items sitting out,” Murphy said. “Make sure your doors are locked and leave your stuff in the trunk or just don’t put in your car at all.”
Dane LeBlanc, WSU police chief, said he believes the four burglaries are related. “We are still trying to piece everything together, but the way the evidence is pointing, we believe the first ones were at the Dee Events Center parking lot and then at the trailhead, because some of the property was recovered at the trailhead.”
Murphy’s purse was one of the items recovered at the trailhead.
CSI came to the scene and was able to recover fingerprints off of the vehicles. LeBlanc said that is a good start, but catching a suspect through fingerprints can be very time-consuming. It could take months before finding an identity through the Federal Bureau of Investigation database.
“The fingerprints might take a while, but the good thing is we recovered most of the property,” LeBlanc said. “I’m not sure which victim lost an iPhone, but we may be able to trace back a serial number with technology, if the criminals try to use that phone.”
All stolen items are entered into the National Crime Information Center, which is the FBI database where people can enter missing or stolen property from purses to cars.
The WSU police also work closely with the local pawn shops. They have a database all the pawn shops are connected to, so all they have to do is put in the description of the item or serial number and the pawn shops will watch for those items to come in. However, LeBlanc said the most popular place for thieves to sell stolen goods is on KSL; they post the items quickly and frequently.
LeBlanc said the WSU police are working diligently to find the individual(s) responsible for these burglaries.
Detective Seth Cawley, the WSU officer who came to the scene, told Murphy vehicle burglary is a third-degree felony with a possible sentence of 1-10 years.
“It just depends on their (the thieves’) criminal history, what their age is; different circumstances will dictate what happens to them or how long they will go to jail,” Cawley said. “If they’re a habitual criminal with a criminal history, then they are probably going to see a more severe punishment. If it is a first-time offender, then there will be less of a punishment.”
All four burglaries were smash-and-grabs. The front driver side window was smashed and the closest property was grabbed. LeBlanc said all the items were visible and easily accessible through the window.
“As we always try to educate our campus community,” LeBlanc said, “you cannot leave visible items in your car; you’re just giving a criminal an opportunity that otherwise wouldn’t be there.”
In approaching the holiday season, LeBlanc asks that the WSU community be more aware of what is left in their vehicles.
“I would say this is good opportunity to remind our campus community that we do not want to leave high-value items where they are visible,” he said. “Put them in the trunk or put them where they can’t be seen, because we’re just providing an opportunity for someone that has ill intent.”
WSU had a rash of car burglaries almost four years ago, but LeBlanc said there haven’t been any on campus for several months.
“It seems to always come back to one or two individuals, and then they get caught and they usually trace back to others that have occurred,” he said. “We are doing the best we can. These kinds of things are always difficult, but we will continue to work on these.”