Backpack thefts on the rise at UNM's Johnson Center

By Justin Nunz / CJ 475 Reporter
Posted April 5, 2012

Over the course of the spring 2012 semester, the University of New Mexico has seen a noticeable increase in the number of reported backpack thefts.

"It's a big problem and a continuing problem we have every year," said UNM Police Department's Lt. Trace Peck. "The experience we have with backpack theft is usually when the semesters first start and we've addressed this issue with beat backpacks." A beat backpack is used to attract potential thieves in the act, and is usually set somewhere in the open where an undercover officer can observe and react.

UNM backpack thefts on the rise
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Justin Nunz

More backpacks thefts this spring 2012 than previous semesters.

"We catch at least six people a year stealing backpacks, but education is the biggest thing we can do. We do one or two informational classes a year," Peck said.

According to Peck, if someone was caught stealing a backpack that has a net worth over $1,000, it would be considered a felony. Anything under that amount would be considered a high court misdemeanor, both punishable by jail time at the Bernalillo County Detention Center. Peck claimed that most students get careless with their belongings, and students do not get the idea until their car gets broken into or their backpacks are stolen.

The UNM Annual Security & Fire Safety Report 2010-2011, reported 33 burglaries on campus. The two most common places of thefts on campus were Johnson Center and the Student Union Building, according to campus crime statistics.

Peck said students often leave their backpacks unattended while they run or exercise providing easy opportunities for theft. However, this spring there have been over 30 reported backpack thefts alone around UNM's Johnson Center.

"Back in January this year, I was at Johnson Center up in the cardio room, and I had a backpack stolen that had about $2,500 worth of stuff in it," said Adam Smith, a junior at UNM. "After that theft, I now go to my car in South Lot to drop off my stuff and then go back to school on the bus."

Reid Figiel, an instructor at UNM Johnson Center, stated he personally has never had any thefts in any of his classes. "I make it a point to tell all my students to rent a locker and put their stuff in it so that they can avoid this problem," Figiel said.

Lockers are issued through the equipment room located in the downstairs portion of Johnson Center 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. However, due to their high demand, lockers are in short supply as all lockers for women have recently been sold out. "If you can get a locker then do it," Smith said. "It's so much more worth keeping your stuff than losing it."