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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Thefts from cars increase on campus, leading to new warnings for student lots

An increase in thefts from vehicles in student parking lots in recent weeks led Public Safety to urge caution and vigilance from students. 

An email sent by Associate Vice President for Safety at Middlebury College Demitria Kirby to the campus community on Feb. 11 mentioned the increase in reports from the previous weekend, and provided general safety measures. “People who commit crimes are often on the lookout for opportunities such as unlocked windows or doors. Lock your vehicle and take your keys with you,” Kirby wrote in the email.  

Additional thefts from vehicles in the Porter Hospital parking lot have been reported since the Feb. 11 email, according to Kirby. “Witnesses were able to provide images of the suspects, which can be seen on the Police Department’s social media,” Kirby wrote in an email to The Campus.

These thefts were not the first instances in the Middlebury community in recent memory. In March 2023, the campus community received an email warning of car thefts from on-campus lots. 

When car-related crimes have occurred in the past, such as last spring, they were of a different nature. 

“This was specific to the motor vehicles themselves being taken for joy riding. Some level of theft is likely to occur within any community. However, many appear to be impulsive crimes of opportunity,” Kirby continued. 

Kirby described how the current and past break-ins differ in that, in the current string of thefts, the individuals are moving between multiple parking lots and have shown signs of pre-meditation. 

“As you’ll see in the images on the Middlebury Police Departments page, they’re wearing masks to cover their faces. They’re also carrying bags to load items into,” Kirby said.

Kirby also mentioned some of the difficulties she faces as a member of the Public Safety Department. 

“The challenging part is trying to find methods to engage that do not seem intrusive. More than anything, we want to build a relationship with our community so we can be seen as a supportive resource rather than a punitive enforcer,” Kirby said. “We regularly hear that members of our community are operating under the misconception that we are law enforcement, which is not the case. We are unarmed and non-sworn. Our purpose is purely to support the educational goals of our community by delivering safety services.”

The school recommends that students remain vigilant, keep their cars locked and report anything suspicious to Public Safety.