Two cars reported stolen from campus lots


Vests worn by Public Safety officers on November 8, 2019.

Aubrey Lathrop

Two car thefts have occurred at Augustana so far this semester, raising concerns about safety on campus.
On Oct. 9, Junior Alyssa Twilbeck discovered that her car was stolen from the Erickson Hall parking lot. 
“I called Public Safety– the emergency line – and they said that they would send an officer over to come chat with me. Apparently, before he came and met with me, he canvassed all of the parking lots we have,” Twilbeck said. “We stood outside and waited for the police department and then the police came and then it was handled through them more than Public Safety.”
Her car was eventually recovered, but in poor condition. 
“They found my car about a mile away. [In] an alleyway, actually. It smelled so bad. It smelled like weed. It was just gross on the inside, like they definitely had been just making a mess everywhere,” Twilbeck said.
Tom Phillis is the chief of Public Safety at Augustana. He oversees Public Safety’s staff and communicates with local law enforcement.  
“Car theft is not really an Augustana problem, it’s a Quad Cities problem,” Phillis said. “It’s actually a national problem. All of the Quad Cities have seen a significant rise in car thefts in the last several years. I’d actually say that car theft on our campus is rare.” 
But when another car was stolen in addition to Twilbeck’s, Public Safety decided to take precautions.
“We currently have approved a bid to install cameras in the Erickson parking areas,” Phillis said. “Again, security cameras don’t prevent. It’s just another step that we can take to be proactive to make our campus less targeted.” 
A related concern with students is the communication between Public Safety and the rest of campus. Timely warning emails are sent, but follow-ups are not. 
“I think it would have been good for people to know the police, especially the Rock Island Police Department, is actually doing what they’re supposed to and trying to find the car because it was their work,” Twilbeck said.
Director of public relations and social media, Ashleigh Johnston, said that emails sent from Public Safety are limited so that recipients don’t become “desensitized” to their messages. 
“We know that people are being inundated with emails and there may be times when we are giving people very immediate actions that they need to take. And we wouldn’t want that to get buried,” Johnston said.
However, there are simple things students can do to keep themselves and their vehicles safe.
“The most important thing to do is to make sure your vehicle is locked. A lot of times, what these people are doing [is] just trying door handles. They find the car that’s unlocked and that becomes their target,” Phillis said. “And lastly, whenever you see someone strange or unusual, to make sure you call our office immediately so that we can get officers out there to identify those people.”