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Salem campus sees spike in motor vehicle theft


A public safety vehicle. Photo by Saul Rodriguez.

According to the annual Clery Report, a breakdown of campus crimes, there were 12 car thefts on Chemeketa’s Salem campus in 2016, more than the previous two years combined.

While it may be too soon to be sure that the increase in motor vehicle theft is more than a statistical anomaly, Director of Public Safety Bill Kohlmeyer urged students to stay alert and cautious while at school.

“What I tell people,” Kohlmeyer said, “is Chemeketa is a very, very physically safe place to be. But it’s sometimes not a very safe place for your stuff. Stuff disappears fast.”

The report does reflect this: while theft is an issue, the numbers seem to indicate that violent crime is relatively rare. Throughout 2016, the total number of reported incidents amounted to one fondling, one robbery, and one burglary.

“We’re very fortunate here,” Kohlmeyer said. “First of all, we have no dorms… Most of our students come here, go to class, and head on back. They’re pretty well-focused on their education, so our statistics are extremely low.”

While Public Safety does place a focus on theft prevention, it can be difficult to keep tabs on things like motor vehicle theft.

“The trouble with the car thefts,” Kohlmeyer said, “is that we very rarely know when they happen. We can’t tell if it’s the owner of a car getting in and driving it away or not… A student parks their car here at 7:30 in the morning, and they come back out at 2:15 and the car is gone, and that’s all they know.

“We do make an effort to put as many officers as possible in visible patrols out in the parking lot. We do bicycle patrols, we do foot patrols, we do all kinds of things.”

Kohlmeyer offered some advice to students on how they can protect their vehicles.

“For a lot of these cars that are stolen, they are the same kind of cars,” he said. “Older Hondas are really easy to steal. We recommend that if you have a car like that, invest in some secondary resource like a steering wheel lock or something like that that would prevent that from happening.”

For smaller personal possessions, Kohlmeyer suggests you either keep them hidden or don’t let them leave your sight.

“Put them in the trunk, put a blanket over them,” he said. “ We do recommend if you’re gonna put them in the trunk or put a blanket over them, do it before you get here. We have had cases, like one a couple of years ago where a female student got here, put her purse in the trunk of a car, came back, and the only thing missing was her purse. So clearly, somebody saw her do that.”

Kohlmeyer also said that if a student waits too long to report a crime, it can be difficult for officers to assist.

“[A thief] can go a long ways in 15 minutes,” he said.

If you see a crime, or find yourself the victim of a crime, Public Safety asks that you contact them immediately at 503-399-5023.