Continuing Story: UNO Community Shocked as Another 4 Cars Are Vandalized in Broad Daylight


An open entrance to the Engineering Parking Lot

By Abigail Karas and Veronika Lee

Once again, a notification labeled “Campus Crime Alert” appeared on the screens of University of New Orleans students. “When our campus community was celebrating its annual Mardi Gras parade,” it read, “4 auto burglaries happened in the Engineering parking lot.” The campus community is questioning the efforts of UNOPD as today’s incident marks the fourth car burglary incident in 22 days in the Engineering parking lot. All four emails sent to the student body reassure that UNOPD is working with NOPD to put a stop to the crime. President Nicklow and the UNOPD have voiced their commitment to increase security precautions and patrolling, but cars are continuing to be vandalized. 

The email sent regarding today’s February 18 car break-ins state a witness saw the suspects, two males wearing masks who fled the scene in a white Honda Accord. 

Fed-up students crowded the Engineering Lot this afternoon, shocked that this has happened yet again, despite promises from administration to amp up security. A chemistry student who declined to provide her name states: “This is ridiculous. They need guards in these lots at all times. Closing up the lot from 10-6 isn’t helping. They just keep letting it happen.”  She noted that the university is quick to ticket parking offenders despite charging fees to park on their premises but not quick to patrol its lots. Onlookers speculated the window damage seen in car windows appears to have been done with a tool. Entering and exiting the lot seemed easy enough as cars continued to drive in and out of the lot. 

According to campus emails dating back to the very first car break-in on January 29, 2020 at 11:30 a.m, witnesses took photos of the suspects for the UNOPD and NOPD officers to pursue leads with aid of concrete evidence. Eight days later on February 6, 2020, the largest amount on record of car break-ins took place at 1:30 a.m. in the Engineering and HPC lots. The alert email stated, “We have surveillance video of the suspects’ vehicle that we are sharing with the New Orleans Police Department.” 

Both of these emails confirm that the crime was perpetrated by more than one suspect, but no further information was given, even though photographic and video evidence was taken. Just last Wednesday, February 12, 2020, the UNO community received more information about who could be committing the auto break-ins via university email. This time, the email read, “A witness spotted the two suspects and they fled.” UNOPD finally had the suspects’ vehicle description and license plate number, and the campus community finally had a shred of hope and the number of suspects. Today’s email was the first time in which a description of the vehicle and perpetrators was revealed to students.

Driftwood spoke to a police officer who declined to be named. The officer explained that you must have justification from the Chief of Police to run a license plate’s history. Sometimes perpetrators are a part of a larger puzzle where evidence is being accumulated so that the criminals can receive longer sentences – it’s not just an open and shut case. 

According to the law enforcement official, car vandals could face 3-5 years or 3-10 years, depending on their lawyer. Furthermore, it’s hard to speculate about what security precedents have been negotiated between the university president and the police force.

Another officer, under condition of anonymity, expresses that these crimes are typical of juveniles seeking something of perceived value – there is oftentimes a lookout and a getaway on top of those breaking in. As it is a property crime, juveniles are aware that there is rarely any real punishment. Furthermore, “no pursuit” policies complicate the issue. According to the officer, “They normally drive stolen vehicles and ‘switch plated’ cars that when ran through data bases come back as registered to different vehicles.”

He continued, “Police procedures are an item number is generated when a victim or witness dials 911 or call sthe police to report the crime. Calls for service are prioritized based on severity of complaint… murder, crime in progress, domestics, serious car accidents, etc. and take priority over ‘property crimes.’ Sometimes it takes hours for NOPD or large departments to respond to property crimes because of the volume of serious felonies in progress or life/death situations.”

The officer states the situation may be upsetting, but the perpetrators know the system better than most. Most likely they will acquire items that can quickly sell, get cash, and deal with a slow justice system that doesn’t consider property damage a serious issue. In the instance of UNO, he believes this is merely just vandalism for no reason or gang initiation.

“They choose areas with lax enforcement and low visibility of law enforcement and security folks. It’s truly a crime of opportunity,” he says.

Driftwood will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.