Earlier this fall, Jacob Weiser, a third-year student at the University of Oregon, came home to shattered glass laying across the passenger seat of his bright orange two-door truck. He felt angry his car was targeted out of the rest in the garage of Parkside Place, a residency owned by AG Campus Housing. After sharing his concern with the management company, he felt disappointed in the efforts of understanding and concern they took, leaving him feeling forced to take matters into his own hands.
In an attempt to keep his and other vehicles in Parkside Park’s garage protected, Weiser sat in the back of his truck while studying and listening to music, he said.
“I’d wait for people to come down so that I can call the cops,” he said. “I don’t want my car getting broken into again. If it takes me sitting down there all night then I’ll do that.”
Around the UO student community, reports of car theft and vandalism have become a natural occurrence on streets, in car parks and around off-campus housing. As the state of education during COVID-19 has become more and more stressful for students, the added anxiety of property damage has caused a swell of negative emotion in the community.
“Almost 100% of vehicle break-ins can be prevented,” Steven Chambers, Eugene Police Department’s Community Engagement specialist, said. “The key message to students would be to not leave anything — and we cannot stress anything enough — visible inside of your vehicle.”
About two months ago, Lauren Monkewicz, a third-year student at UO, received a phone call during a Zoom class from a friend who witnessed her vehicle being vandalized.
“I thought it was a joke,” she said. “It didn’t make sense.”
Monkewicz’s friend, Roger Lozano, whose car had also been broken into a few weeks prior, noticed suspicious behavior from a man outside who was yelling and Lozano called the police.
During the phone call, Lozano witnessed the incident occur. “We looked out the window and he stared at us and then chucked something at our friend's car,” he said. “It broke her windshield, and he just ran off.”
Although nothing was stolen, Monkewicz said she paid about $300 for repairs, out of pocket on her new car. “I was shocked and upset because there was a big bill because of it,” she said.
After the incident occurred, she filed a police report and said EPD was helpful. Chambers said that when a student experiences car damages and vandalism, the first thing to do is make a police report, which is what Monkewicz did.
One report can help solve another case that may already be under investigation. Therefore, Chambers said it’s important to report incidents so the data is present and accessible.
“What you don’t know is that there could be multiple other crimes that haven’t happened to you, of the same crime, and if we catch the person we’re able to backtrack crimes to that person,” Chambers said.
Later, Monkewicz contacted her property’s management at Ducks Village, but said her situation was poorly handled and believes car vandalism and car break-ins are issues that deserve more attention.
“It was a bit upsetting to know not only the security encountered this individual, but that property made sure he left, which ultimately stopped the police from being able to do their work,” she said.
Monkewicz said that she and her friends have experienced about five car break-ins in their three months living at Ducks Village.
Although Monkewicz believes vehicle damages are out of the property management's control, she said she would like to see more concern, initiative and cameras to prevent car break-ins. Based on her experience living at Ducks Village this year, Monkewicz said she feels like vehicle damage is expected to happen. “It’s just so common,” she said.
Monkewicz said she and her friends are worried about where they park and keep in mind certain parking spots where they believe their cars are less likely to be vandalized.
Monkewicz and Lozano are not alone in their concern around vehicle damage, vandalism and theft occurring near campus.
More recently, in December, Weiser's roommate Max Lafreniere also experienced a vehicle break-in with triple the damage in shattered windows.
After Weiser noticed the damages on his car, he filed a police report. Similar to Monkewicz, he said EPD was helpful. Aside from the cost of repairing window damages, Weiser said a dollar in change and his car registration were stolen.
“It doesn’t feel good when you have to spend $200 of your own money to pay for a car that I just got,” he said. “It’s frustrating.”
During that time, Weiser said he called AG Campus Housing several times and left angry voicemails about the housing management not doing enough to protect tenants' property. “They still never did anything about it,” he said.
Similar to Weiser, Lozano said he feels concerned and seeks initiative to prevent the problem by investing in security cameras if Ducks Village won't.
As of today, Weiser leaves notes on the driver seat window of his car that reads, “There is nothing valuable in my car. Please don’t break-in.”
About three months after Weiser’s incident and shortly after Lafreniere’s, AG Property Management sent out a text to tenants at one of its properties, Parkside Place. The text informed everyone that the codes to the garage had changed.
According to Weiser, Lafreniere and several other tenants at Parkside Place, it was the first time since this academic year tenants have seen garage and door codes change. About two weeks later, a second text was sent to remind tenants to ensure the garage door is closed each time they’ve exited the building, avoid leaving valuables in the car and to report suspicious behavior.
AG Campus Housing has declined to provide a statement addressing the issue of car damages occurring on its properties, along with the number of reports made this year.
“One of the things that would really help us deter criminal activity is if more people were observant about suspicious activity going on around them,” Chambers said.
Bruno Crolla contributed reporting to this story