Staying safe amid theft and vandalism


Photo by Chris Ferman

Parking Lot N-1, located outside Swanson Commons.

Jack Brandt

This year, students have more to worry about than just homework, friendships, activities and food. Recently a wave of crime has impacted campus with 5 reported cases of car theft and vandalism, according to an email sent out to students on Sept. 12. 

Junior Luke Vega, is a Community Advisor (CA) for multiple Transitional Living Areas (TLAs). 

“If I have conversations about the topic with people, then I can tell they’re mad too,” Vega said, noting that a lot of people won’t come up to him directly. “They feel the same way that I feel about it.”

Many students are frustrated that the school is almost powerless in some situations. It only takes a minute or so for these crimes to happen.

Sophomore Jonathan Knuth says he is frustrated about the situation. Recently, his own tire was slashed.

“It wasn’t like a pop, or it wasn’t like glass, it was a full drag down the tire,” Knuth said. 

Having come back to his car around noon, he first called Public Safety, then his dad. Knuth said he didn’t know who did it. His car was parked in the R lot.

Vega gave ideas as to how students can be more safe, “I went to Walmart and bought a steering wheel lock and I feel safer having that on there,” Vega said. 

Tom Phillis is chief of public safety at Augustana. He acknowledged the recent events, but said that the people committing these crimes aren’t just targeting Augustana. 

“They’re just picking a neighborhood, either in Rock Island or Coal Valley or even some of the rural towns,” Phillis said. “And if a car’s locked, they simply move on to the next one.” 

Phillis said most of the thefts, as well as other crimes on campus, took place in the early morning. 

As for a motive, it’s more difficult for Chief Phillis to say. 

“We’re talking high school-age kids. Even some as young as junior high,” Phillis said. “Many times they’re looking for a car to steal so they can go commit another crime. Many times it’s just they take the car on a joy ride.”

Phillis acknowledged that only some parking lots have cameras, like Naeseth and Erickson, but sitting and watching them is only part of the picture. 

“We have two huge monitors, and we have different groups of cameras that are up,” Phillis said. “In one video two people tried every car in the lot, and as soon as they found a car that was unlocked, they went in.”

In the meantime, students can form preventive habits: Always locking the car and never leaving a spare key behind can go a long way.