Recent spike in car thefts at Rockhurst align with rising numbers in the United States


Photo by Grayce Teague, Photographer

Alex Zoellner, Reporter

Since 2019, there has been a dramatic 59% increase of motor vehicle thefts in over 30 major cities across the United States, and inevitably, that issue has found its way to the campus of Rockhurst University and its surrounding areas.

Rockhurst’s Safety and Security Department patrol officers respond to various emergency and non-emergency calls every day, but in recent months, there has been a spike in calls related to car burglaries. According to their Clergy Act Public Crime Log, the department has responded to at least four reports linked to attempted motor vehicle theft or stealing from automobiles in just the past two months.

The number of vehicle break-ins has definitely increased and is probably the highest I have seen in the past seven years I have been at the university,” Director of Security, Chief Randy Hopkins, said.

Fortunately, the patrol officers reacted quickly, recording a response time of under three minutes on every occasion. Only one car was successfully stolen; the other attempts were shut down by security.

While higherend vehicles are known to be targets of car break-ins, Chief Hopkins warned that the drivers at the highest risk of car theft are those who own Kia and Hyundai vehicles. The reason is that these manufacturers produced many cars between 2010-2021 that lack electronic immobilizers. When you insert your key into the ignition or have a smart key fob in the car, the electronic immobilizer sends a code for the vehicle to recognize. The engine will only start if the code in the key or smart key fob matches the code in the immobilizer.

This is a standard feature that prevents cars from being stolen and without one, the car is at far more of a risk of being taken. According to a recent Highway Loss Data Institute report, theft claims were nearly twice as common for Hyundai and Kia vehicles than for all other manufacturers in models produced between 2015-2019.

It’s hard because I need my car at school, but I get nervous to leave it outside at night,” freshman Sofia Hughes, owner of a Hyundai said, “I’ve thought about leaving it at home, but I park on the street there so it could still get stolen.”

There is no doubt that these statistics have caused unrest among students and staff who park on or near campus, but the patrol officers are doing all they can to keep campus safe. The Safety and Security Department has identified and contacted almost all the Kia and Hyundai owners at Rockhurst and encouraged them to park their car in campus lots or anywhere in their patrol area to decrease the likelihood of them being stolen. The department will also be driving by their designated areas more often and keeping a more vigilant surveillance presence than before.

Just as the security department is doing their part to keep campus secure, they want students and staff to do the same. The obvious efforts are making sure the car is locked before going into a building along with hiding or removing anything visible in the car that could entice someone to break in. However, Chief Hopkins urges the Rockhurst community to take things a step further, even if they do not have a Kia or Hyundai, by getting a Club, anti-theft device.

Clubs go on the steering wheel column and attach down to the breaking mechanism,” Chief Hopkins said, “If a car thief sees that on the steering wheel, they aren’t going to fool with it because they know they won’t be able to turn the wheel and get away with it.”

So as the semester comes to a close, be extra cautious parking on campus and make sure to report any suspicious activity to the security department. Officer Hopkins encourages anyone with ideas on how to enhance safety on campus or prevent future car thefts to share their thoughts with the Safety and Security Department as well.

The Safety and Security Department can be contacted for either emergency or non-emergency purposes via the regular campus phone system by dialing extension 4010. If you are off campus and wish to contact the Safety and Security Department, you can do so by dialing 816-501-4010.