Five cars were burglarized this weekend and one was damaged as a rash of burglaries hit the River Campus.

UR Security apprehended a 17-year-old Monroe Community College student in connection with the robberies. Joseph Lapiana, of Fairport, was taken into custody on an initial complaint of criminal mischief.

Officers observed two suspects looking into vehicles and fiddling under the hood of a car early Sunday morning around 6 a.m. in the Hill Court Parking Lot on their closed circuit television channel and security dispatched officers to the area to investigate.

The two suspects began briskly walking away from the area as UR officers arrived on the scene. The two boys refused to stop, then ran away from the area. Officers located Lapiana hiding inside the Susan B. Anthony Residence Halls attempting to get rid of identifying clothing, but they were unable to catch the second suspect, UR Investigator Dan Lafferty said.

Lapiana originally told the officers that he was a student at UR and he just needed to go back to his car to get his UR ID. Officers escorted him back to his car, which was located in Hill Court Lot, where they found a quantity of items, including stereos, radar detectors, a cell phone and several CDs. Officers also recovered tools next to the car the suspects were at when they were noticed on the security cameras.

Director of Security Walter Mauldin said officers checked the immediate area where they apprehended the suspect but didn’t notice that any other cars had been broken into. Later in the day, three students reported missing items from cars located in the Hill Court Lot and two students reported break ins in the Library Parking Lot.

The items found in Lapiana’s car matched the general description items reported stolen. In all, five cars were broken into and one was damaged. Most of the items recovered in Lapiana’s car have been linked to the vehicle break ins, Lafferty said.

Laiana, a minor, was charged as an adult by the Rochester Police Department and could face additional charges. Security and the RPD are continuing their investigation to find the second suspect and to see if Lapiana has involvement in any other crimes.

Senior Matt Fearnside and freshman commuter Ian Kleckner were among those who had their cars broken into. Fearnside’s Ford Explorer, parked in Hill Court Lot, suffered over $1,000 in damages, Kletchner’s Toyota Corolla, in Rush Rhees Library Parking Lot, approximately $900. Both cars had their CD players removed and doors forcibly opened with a screw driver.

“It looks like he knew what he was doing when he was inside the car,” Kleckner said.

Mauldin agreed. “This was obviously not his first foray into the business,” he said.

Both felt security and the RPD handled the matter well once the crimes were reported.

“On the whole they did a good job,” Fearnside said. “I am satisfied with the way the stolen property was recovered.”

“I must say I am a little disappointed that the guy was able to get into five cars before getting caught,” Kleckner said.

There are over 11,000 parking spaces, in the River Campus and the UR Medical Center combined, with hundreds of cars being clustered together at any time. Even in the middle of the night, there are over 2,000 cars parked in the lots.

“This is probably the largest concentration of parking spots in the City of Rochester, if not Monroe County,” Mauldin said. “For example, at Marketplace Mall there are only 6,500 spots.”

He said the size of the space naturally attracts criminals, “Is it attractive? Well, if you go to Florida do you drink OJ? Of course you do.”

Mauldin said he felt that the lots were generally safe and well lit, meeting established safety guidelines. “We have good measures in place to protect property in the lots,” he said.

Security recently replaced eight cameras in Hill Court Lot focusing on student parking. The previous cameras were reaching the end of their service life and the new ones enhance security’s ability to monitor the lots with higher resolution pictures and better night vision.

There are several ways people can help prevent but not guarantee their cars safety in UR and in general, Mauldin said.

He suggested hiding valuables like the CDs under the seat or out of sight, locking doors, parking in a well traveled area if the option is available and purchasing a security device like a Club.

“Car security is like layers of clothing in the winter,” Mauldin said. “Every little bit adds a layer of security.”

Both Fearnside and Kleckner said in general they feel like they did all they could so their car wouldn’t be targeted.

“It frustrated me,” Fearnside said. “It seems like I followed all the rules. My car was parked in a well lit area, all the doors were locked and I put my CDs away out of vision. To say the least, I was surprised my car was targeted.”

Kleckner said he choose Library Lot because of its proximity to the center of campus and the traffic passing by it. He said he wasn’t aware there were no security cameras in Library Lot and that he was told by security that cars don’t patrol lots after midnight and on the weekends.

“It definitely should be the other way around,” he said.

Generally, students don’t feel safe when either leaving their car there or walking in from them.

“I don’t think it is safe at all. I have an alarm system but no one would hear it if it went off. I just don’t like that there is no one there in far away lots,” senior Dushyant Thakur said.

All in all, Fearnside said an ounce of prevention could go along way to quelling student fears.

“Security could go a long way to alleviate student fears by increasing their visibility during times that there is a high probability of crime occurring,” he said.

Additional reporting by Mansi Desai.

Hildebrandt can be reached at thildebrandt@campustimes.org.



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