Walking to the empty spot where he knew his car was parked, graduate student Alvin Huynh realized that one of his worst fears had come true—his car was missing.
When he called Long Beach State’s University Police Department, an officer was dispatched to make sure Huynh hadn’t simply misplaced his car.
“[The police] could tell that I was panicking,” Huynh said.
Circling the area where his car was last parked and seeing nothing, Huynh lost hope of finding his missing vehicle. He reported his black 2008 Acura TSX missing from Employee Parking Lot 1 around 7 p.m. on Nov. 11. Huynh said he only has liability insurance for the car, so he is at risk of losing around $8,000, the value of the vehicle.
Police told Huynh, that essentially, all he could do was sit and wait for a phone call from them with any new information. He recalls UPD officers telling him that his case would probably sit on their desk for two weeks before they could get to it.
Huynh did all he could to protect the safety of his car, including locking his car and parking only about 20 feet from the nearest security camera. He said the police department didn’t do enough on its end to protect it.
“For the amount we pay for parking, it should be going to more patrols,” Huynh said.
As there was no broken glass or any other sign of the theft of his car, UPD said the thieves likely copied the car’s electronic key code in order to steal it.
There are a few different ways that thieves can break into cars with a key fob like Huynh’s, including by using amplifying devices. The devices work by picking up the signal that car keys constantly send out and enhancing that signal, according to Popular Mechanics.
With the signal enhanced, thieves are able to use it to open a victim’s car because the vehicle’s software recognizes the key as being nearby. Using this method, criminals can steal cars without triggering their alarm systems.
Although the police said an electronic device may have been used to steal Huynh’s car, he said the thieves could have used a tow truck instead. Tow trucks pass through campus for a variety of reasons, Huynh said it’s plausible that the thieves could have towed his car away without arousing suspicion.
Some students said the school’s current security measures aren’t strong enough to prevent this kind of crime.
“I feel so vulnerable that a locked car could be stolen right under a security camera in a parking lot we paid $155 to park in,” said second-year computer science major Allison Lloyd.
The number of vehicles stolen has decreased over recent years. Car thefts dropped from 20 in 2016 to 14 in 2018, according to the UPD’s annual Clery Report.
More often, cars are reported lost than they are reported stolen. A car is thought to be lost if the owner can’t locate it. When it’s determined that a car has been taken by another person without the owner’s permission, it is then considered stolen.
According to UPD data, about five cars have been stolen so far during the 2019 calendar year. Capt. John Brockie said the number of security cameras in campus parking lots has increased, so it is likely the reason why the number of stolen cars dropped.
A car was reported lost Dec. 5 from the Pyramid Parking Structure but was later recovered as reported by UPD.
It’s rare for cars to be classified as lost because they often are either determined to be stolen or later found by their owners.
UPD said its is implementing a project to install more security cameras throughout the entire campus in order to try and prevent theft, including inside of the Pyramid Parking Structure. In September, Capt. Richard Goodwin said it was “almost certain” that security cameras would be installed in parking structures in the near future.
“Overall I think that for the size of our university, the amount of vehicle theft is on the low side,” Brockie said.