On-campus motor vehicle thefts raise concern

The M70 parking lot is located across from Stambaugh Stadium. Photo by Jillian McIntosh / The Jambar

By Jillian McIntosh

Three incidents of motor vehicle theft have been reported at Youngstown State University since January. 

A student reported a missing vehicle at the University Courtyard Apartments on Sept. 2.

According to the police report, the student had left the vehicle unlocked with the keys inside at the M32 lot. Security footage captured two unknown suspects — one wearing a gray hoodie and the other wearing a yellow hoodie — who drove away in the vehicle by opening the door.

YSU Police Chief Shawn Varso is responsible for safety, protection and crime prevention on campus. He said unlocked vehicles are at risk of theft.

“It’s an easy opportunity for someone to get a hold of a car,” Varso said. “It’s the second time that the car was left unlocked and the keys were in the vehicle.”

Varso said the main purpose of the YSU Police Department is to prevent crime on campus. 

“Our officers will go through the lots periodically checking in,” Varso said. “We are looking for individuals who look out of place, [and] who just happen to be walking around a lot.”

Varso said YSU community members can report suspicious activity by contacting or going to the police department.

“We rely on our students, faculty and staff to call us if they see something,” Varso said. “If you do see somebody walking around a lot, pulling on door handles — that’s suspicious — we should know about that.”

According to Varso, one of the higher risk areas for theft is the M70 lot.

“We’ve actually had some thefts occur in the M70 lot, which is the large tailgate lot right across from the stadium,” Varso said. “It’s just the theft of convenience. These individuals will walk through parking lots, and they will look in vehicles that are open.”

Vehicles with money, technology or other personal belongings visible are at a higher risk of theft. Varso said he advises students to take time to check locked doors, and have no visible valuables. 

“Make sure you don’t have that out. Then take another minute to walk around the car, make sure the doors are locked,” Varso said.

Faith Gregory, a sophomore psychology major, said she reported an incident of theft in the M71 lot last August. 

“I was in class … my sister went in and she forgot to lock my car,” Gregory said. “There were two women, I believe, that came into my car and just ransacked it.”

Gregory said she also had her gas cap stolen in the Wick Avenue M30 Parking Deck the following Monday.

Varso said three individuals were identified and prosecuted last year. 

“The type of crime it is, usually a misdemeanor offense, in some cases they’re given a couple days in jail or they are given probation,” Varso said. 

Danny O’Connell, director of Support Services, is involved in parking and auxiliary services. He said parking services find doors open or vehicles operating unattended.

“Recently, we found a faculty’s car that was still running,” said O’Connell. “When we see things like that … we find out who’s vehicle it was and let them know and they can move the car. I lock the car and shut it off.”

There are safety measures built in the parking decks for crime prevention.

“Our first phase went into two parking garages at the time, and we stained the concrete white and put the LED lights,” said O’Connell. “The second phase was to go around all the parking lots and change the [lights] out.”

O’Connell said the cameras in lots do not prevent crime entirely.

“It’s really impractical to have cameras all through the parking garage,” O’Connell said. “It’s such an expense … Usually a camera would help us find something after the fact.”

Contact 330-941-1515 for student security services, which are available 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday.