GW and city police forces are reporting a spike in thefts this fall, and officials said it is likely because people are not securing their valuables.
With more than a week left in October, 30 percent more thefts have been reported to the University Police Department this month than the same month last year.
The Metropolitan Police Department has seen this phenomenon manifest in the form of car break-ins, officials said. As theft from cars rise, other rates, including armed robbery and vehicular theft, have remained constant or even gone down, according MPD’s Web site.
Citywide reports of theft from parked cars increased 30 percent in September compared to the same month in 2007. In MPD’s 2nd District, which includes Foggy Bottom, that figure is more than 50 percent. Statistics for October are not yet available.
MPD Lieutenant Philip Lanciano said his department is aware of the trend, but would not speculate as to the exact reason for an increase in theft.
“A laptop left unattended for a period of time (is an) opportunity,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Four purses or a wallet left in a vehicle in plain view is an opportunity.”
UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said students tend to be careless with their property, allowing for more theft.
“People need to secure their valuables,” she said. “Many of the thefts that I reviewed recently, people were in various locations and left their property unattended while doing something else. They returned to find that their property was stolen.”
Junior Riaan Ahmed’s bicycle was stolen while he attended an event at GW Hillel last week. Ahmed said the cable he used to secure the bike had been cut in broad daylight.
When he reported the theft, UPD told him there was little chance of recovering the stolen bike, Riaan said. He said UPD campus patrols are sufficient.
“What else can UPD do?” he said.
Stafford said MPD assists UPD in patrolling campus, adding that MPD deals more closely with crimes that occur outside of University facilities, like thefts from cars in public streets.
Sociology professor Charis Kubrin said the poor economy may play a role in the increase of thefts.
“I am not at all surprised to learn that certain types of crime are on the rise given the current state of the economy,” Kubrin said.
He said in addition to economic hardships, population growth and changes in policing methods may also contribute to theft increases.
Although it is difficult to determine a sole cause of the recent increase in reports of theft, Kurbin said the trend is unlikely to reverse itself in the current economic environment.
Kubrin said if jobs are lost, “people will be stressed and suffering … they need to pay bills. And so they will innovate to relieve the strain.”