Recent Car Break-Ins on Campus Leave Students Uninformed

Over the past few weeks, a crime spree has taken place across campus involving several vehicles that belong to students. Information provided by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) show that the now-apprehended suspect began the hiatus by stealing a student’s 1994, light blue Buick Century out of the Mill Street Ramp on Thursday, March 8.

The following day, the same individual broke into a student’s vehicle in the University Pavilion (UPAV) Parking Ramp. The suspect returned to campus Monday, March 12, and broke into two vehicles–one on the Mill Street Parking Deck and one in the UPAV Ramp. Despite this being an on-campus crime, no alert or email was sent out to students.

“What DPS did immediately upon having the first crime reported is that we began deploying surveillance teams in our parking structures,” shared Police Chief Raymond Hall.

Hall said that the break-ins were not limited to just campus, but all of Genesee County, and a report was sent out to over 120 police officers. The break-ins and car theft fit a similar pattern and police were led to believe they were all connected. Hall shared that campus police went as far as to put a car that the suspect might break in to as bait for a sting operation.

The reason there was no campus wide email sent out? Campus Police believed the suspect had some type of connection to campus, and it turns out that the individual did. Hall shared the suspect had been on the UM-Flint campus back in 2010 and 2011, where they stole a vehicle and was charged and imprisoned for larceny from a motor vehicle.

After being released from prison recently, Hall shares that the suspect violated his parole and had cut his tether off, thus permitting a warrant for his arrest. Police also discovered the suspect had a girlfriend, who they believed had ties to campus. Hall said that by sending an email to all of campus, word of it might have made its way back to the suspect, causing them to go dark or flee out of state.

Hall told The Michigan Times that intel shared between multiple departments helped officers connect the previous break-in to the more recent ones.

“Criminals who have been around or committed crimes in the past, they have a certain way they commit a crime,” said Hall. “This subject had a distinctive way of breaking into cars.”

Campus police analyzed the patterns and behaviors of the break-ins, which led to the discovery of a partial name for a potential suspect by Officer Mitchell Lipp. The name was then run through a data base where they were able to connect a suspect to the crime.

Burton Police were able to find the stolen Buick which has since been returned to the student. The suspect was also spotted with his girlfriend in Burton, and both entered into a car chase with Michigan State Police. The two were eventually both caught and arrested.

Hall credits the quick arrest to the communication and skills of all police departments involved.

“It really marks as a textbook investigation into crimes of this nature,” said Hall. “Often times these are difficult crimes to solve as quickly as we solved it.”

Hall shares that this crime, as well as any crime, is unusual to happen on campus, and would encourage students to report any suspicious activity they hear or see.

Since the suspects arrest, an email has still yet to be sent to students or faculty.

“What I do not understand is the selective application of the Clery Act. That is, that only certain individuals were made aware of the break ins, rather than the whole of the campus community,” said Dr. Lois Alexander, professor of music, with tenure, for the Department of Music. “I do not understand why the past practice of sending out an email notice to the campus community was not followed.”

Dr Alexander shares she feels DPS lacked transparency regarding the situation.  “In general, I am very appreciative of everything that the DPS folks do for us.  All of my interactions with them have been positive,” said Dr. Alexander.  She expresses that she is not being critical, but does not understand why an email was not, and still has not, been sent out. “What I do not understand is that apparently a decision was made to deliberately withhold information from some members of the campus community, while informing others.”