A pickup truck was reported stolen from inside a campus building on the 100 block of Long Lane on Thursday, Nov. 17 at 7:32 a.m., according to an all-campus email from Public Safety (PSafe) Associate Director Tony Bostick. The truck belonged to Stonehenge Landscaping, a subcontractor for the University, and was recovered on Clarence Court—about three blocks away—on Sunday, Nov. 20.
Although the truck was recovered, suspects have not been identified. Middletown Police have video footage of the crime and are working on solving the case. The vehicle has been returned undamaged to its owner and nothing inside of it was reported stolen, damaged, or missing.
“It went a fairly short distance,” Director of PSafe Scott Rohde said. “So my assumption is it may have been taken for a joy ride. It’s difficult to say; you don’t wanna make a lot of assumptions as to who or where, why it was taken to that neighborhood, but it certainly didn’t go too far.”
The truck was at 160 Long Lane at the time of the theft and was left unlocked, allowing the thief to enter and take it without being noticed. PSafe has advised Stonehenge Landscaping to secure their vehicles and believes the theft would not have occurred if the keys were not in the truck. This type of crime occurs almost annually on campus, but not in large numbers.
“We typically see one or two vehicle thefts a year on campus,” Rohde said. “Some years zero. It’s very dependent, but it’s never typically a large number…. I’m not seeing a pattern that’s concerning.”
In the broader Middletown area, vehicle thefts happen fairly frequently. According to the Middletown Police Department (MPD), there were 102 reports of stolen motor vehicles between Saturday, Jan. 1 and Sunday, Nov. 28, with 18 happening in November alone.
“[Thieves are] becoming much more sophisticated with their ability to steal vehicles with electronic means,” MPD Captain Brian Hubbs said. “Occasionally we also have people who just inadvertently leave the keys in the car or the fobs are too close to the vehicles and they can actually gain access.”
The best way to prevent this type of crime is by being careful to lock cars and keep keys and fobs far away.
“Just be conscientious of locking your doors,” Hubbs said. “They don’t wanna draw attention to themselves by having to break windows. That obviously gets dogs barking and people waking up and they don’t wanna get caught any more than the next person. So just lock up your stuff, they’ll hopefully move on and go to the next vehicle, the next parking lot where there’s somebody that’s more susceptible.”
As the University community has experienced a variety of thefts in recent months, PSafe wanted to emphasize the importance of diligence with any and all vulnerable goods, specifically packages. While package theft is not very common at the University, Rohde noted the spontaneous nature of the crime.
“People still send gifts and in some cases even cash to people, and mail theft is relatively easy,” Rohde said. “It’s kind of a grab and go, especially after the hours of darkness and people are gone. We see really very little of that at Wesleyan, mainly because students’ families know that they will be coming home over the break period, or, if they’re going to remain on campus, typically important mail would go to their WesBox or an Amazon box.”
Rohde’s advice for students who are concerned about the theft of any goods, whether they be vehicles or packages, is to stay alert and, with mail, remove it from doorsteps as soon as possible. As with vehicle crimes, package and mail thefts should be called in to the MPD or PSafe, especially if the crime is still in progress.
“I would encourage students to continue to call suspicious activity in, whether it be to us or Public Safety,” Hubbs said. “Get somebody who’s uniformed out there who is in a position to confront suspects if that’s the case, and not necessarily put themselves in harm’s way trying to do it themselves.”
Although this type of crime is generally preventable through individual actions, the MPD has been working to keep the Middletown community safer through increased patrols.
“We try to [be] omnipresent with our cruise lights on to try and deter people from even entering a neighborhood,” Hubbs said. “Whenever we identify a pocket of areas that are getting hit, we’ll start to saturate it with more officers.”
Additionally, because of the widespread nature of vehicle thefts, the MPD have published public service announcements on social media to increase awareness. However, Hubbs emphasized that the best way to prevent crime is to report any suspicious activity and crimes in progress.
“We try to encourage people to call in suspicious activity every time we respond to all of them the same way, just to make sure that we’re there getting the appropriate response and manpower out to the area,” Hubbs said. “But we mostly at this point have to rely on folks like yourself to make sure they’re calling in stuff.”
Hubbs stressed the importance of not intervening if you see a theft happening, especially if the person is armed.
“If you happen to catch them in the process, I don’t wanna see someone get injured or hurt trying to protect their property and have it turn into a physical thing,” Hubbs said. “It’s not something that is worth dying for.”
Caleb Henning can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.