Three vehicles stolen from campus in recent crime uptick

Public Safety is increasing parking lot patrols in response to a rash of vehicle-related crime.


Melanie Hopkins

Hamline Public Safety states that thieves are more likely to target unlocked cars and reminds students to lock their car doors and keep valuables out of sight.

Lydia Hansen, Senior Reporter

Two vehicles stolen from street parking adjacent to campus earlier this month have put Public Safety and commuting students on high alert.

A vehicle was reported stolen from a parking space on Englewood Avenue on April 2. Another theft was reported on April 4, this time from Taylor Avenue on the other side of campus.

Investigations of the vehicle thefts are being handled by the Saint Paul Police Department. Because Public Safety officers are not commissioned law enforcement, they cannot conduct the criminal investigation. They do an internal investigation to see if they can identify a person of interest and assist SPPD by providing camera footage and copies of reports.

An earlier theft on Feb. 2, also from Englewood, puts the current total of auto thefts for 2019 at the average for campus based on previous years. There were four thefts reported to Public Safety in 2016, three in 2017, and just two in 2018.

The uptick this year has Public Safety increasing patrols throughout campus, particularly in campus parking lots.

“Typically if someone knows we’re watching them, they move on,” said Director of Public Safety Melinda Heikinnen.

The recent thefts have also created worries, particularly for commuter students who rely on their vehicles to get to and from campus or work. The possibility of having his vehicle stolen has been a recent concern of senior Luke Colstad, who parks his vehicle on the street.

“It’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about,” Colstad said. “I always lock [his truck] twice. I used to have a spare key and I used to hide it somewhere, but I took it out and gave it to my parents who live close by in case I get locked out.”

Junior Jesus Gonzales Reyes also commutes and said the recent thefts have raised concerns about the safety of his vehicle.

“It definitely worries me, especially since I am on campus early and don’t leave until later,” Gonzales Reyes said. “Having my car on the lots unattended, I know there are cameras around, but it still worries me.”

For some commuter students, that concern is lessened by the fact that they do not feel their cars would be targets.

“I’m not really worried because my car is like a 1990-something car,” junior Michelle Salazar said. “I do lock it, but I have nothing valuable in it.”

Heikinnen encourages students, staff and faculty to report any suspicious activity and to take steps to protect their own vehicles: locking doors, putting valuables out of sight and keeping their keys on them at all times.

“Most of the thefts that we’ve seen…we had people walking through the parking lot just flipping handles,” Heikinnen said. “They were looking for an unlocked car, they were looking for the easy target.”

To report a theft or suspicious activity, call Public Safety at 651-523-2100.