Amber Tuma had only been gone 45 minutes when her backpack disappeared from her back seat.
“I parked beside the Texas Wesleyan bookstore on Rosedale Street,” Tuma said. “There were other cars there, so I didn’t think anything about it. I was like, ‘Oh my God, my backpack is heavy,’ so I grabbed anything of importance out of it like my wallet and my phone and I left my backpack there.”
Tuma, a junior music education major, returned to find her window smashed in and her textbooks, notes, and homework for the semester missing in mid-October.
Director of Safety and Security Chris Beckrich wrote in an email that Tuma is just one of the nine reported victims of the motor vehicle burglaries that have been occurring on campus since Sept. 20. Security has sent out several emails warning students of increased burglaries on campus.
“Before the break-in, I’d heard that there were break-ins, but parking next to the bookstore I felt that I was close enough to the building that I was going to be safe,” Tuma said. “I never imagined being robbed next to the bookstore. You know it’s on a busy street so there’s people around all the time. Now I’m just like there either needs to be more cameras, and maybe there needs to be fences [for commuter parking lots].”
Beckrich wrote that most of the break-ins occur on the public streets on the west side of campus with the occasional parking lot break-in. Security believes most of the break-ins are happing during the daytime.
“The times vary but they are generally occurring in the morning and afternoon hours,” Beckrich wrote. “Because the vehicles are parked in the morning and sometimes not discovered until the owner returns later in the day, an exact time of occurrence is difficult [to determine sometimes].”
Beckrich said security is working closely with the Fort Worth Police Department to find the thief or thieves and stop the burglaries on campus.
“We have increased patrols in the area and brought in officers on overtime to watch the area,” Beckrich wrote. “We have also changed the hours of our Fort Worth police officers patrolling our campus to better match the times of occurrence. We are also working on camera installation of certain parking lots. Our neighborhood police officer is following up leads along with the East Division Property Crimes Task Force.”
Freshman accounting major Matthew Hernandez thinks security is handling the issue well.
“I feel like they’re [security] doing a great job,” Hernandez said, “because half of us didn’t even know stuff went down during the incidents until we received the emails.”
Beckrich wrote that he doesn’t believe that Texas Wesleyan is the specific target of the car vandals.
“After speaking with the Fort Worth Police Department, they advised the entire area has been having burglary issues, so I don’t necessarily think we are being targeted,” Beckrich wrote. “With that said, locations with multiple cars are always prime locations for this type of activity.”
Beckrich also wrote that campus security and Fort Worth police are working on identifying potential suspects. He believes a possible suspect is using a BMX bicycle for transportation, but other suspects are also being investigated.
“We have identified several potential suspects recently and even taken one downtown for interview,” Beckrich wrote. “With the increased pressure around campus the actor may move on to a less protected area. While catching the actors is ideal, our main goal is to get them to stop.”
While security is on the hunt for their thief, Tuma has been on the hunt for her backpack.
“It’s funny because I didn’t have anything of value: no electronics or money,” Tuma said. “All I can think about is that they got nothing, so what are they going to do with it? Security did tell me to start looking around in dumpsters and I have been dumpster diving, which is a new thing for me. There were so many other nicer cars, so [I wonder] why they chose mine.”
Beckrich wrote that the vandal typically breaks into cars with small and visible items. Therefore, in order to decrease chances of break-ins it’s good to keep items out of sight.
“[Students should] lock and park their vehicles in high traffic locations,” Beckrich wrote. “[They should] insure no items of value are visible from the outside. [With] the majority of the burglaries, the actor broke in to take something in plain sight.”
Beckrich also wrote that if people see any suspicious activity around vehicles or find any break-ins to call security.
“[People should] call security immediately at 817-531-4911,” Beckrich wrote. “[They should] pay attention to their physical identifiers and any vehicle they may be in. Basically, [they would] be a witness for information for us [security].”
After Tuma’s car was broken into, she’s become more aware of the people around her.
“Well I look at people a lot different,” Tuma said. “Usually I’d look at that guy and be, ‘He’s just walking.’ Now I see look at that guy and I wonder if he steals backpacks. Even my friends have commented on how I’ve changed. They’re like, ‘Amber, are you obsessed over this backpack?’ and I’m like, ‘Yes, it had like hours and hours of my life in it.’ It’s just frustrating.”
Tuma’s advice to people is to just not leave anything you value in your car.
“Definitely put anything that you want to keep forever in your trunk, and make your car as clean as possible on the inside,” Tuma said. “If they don’t see anything, they’re not going to break into it. If you are really attached to your backpack and homework in it keep that with you. Maybe get a locker somewhere, if you’re a commuter student.”
Tuma would like to see the security and police find the car vandal.
“I hope that they catch the guy, because personally I’d like to press chargers,” Tuma said. “Justice-wise think that’s how it goes. I feel like a lost Dora the Explorer.”