Off-campus vehicle break-ins cause concern


GVL / Max Ritchie

Gillian Hanton, Staff Writer

The winter semester has been a period of adjustment for Grand Valley State University students. 

However, one adjustment students weren’t expecting to make was protecting their vehicles from robbery. For the past several weeks, students’ cars parked at off-campus housing lots have been broken into and damaged. 

Since the majority of students at GVSU live at off-campus apartments or choose to commute to school, the break-ins have become a pressing issue for the entire community. 

Senior Caitlyn Webber was one of the first students to report a vehicle break-in at the 48 West apartment complex. After witnessing multiple break-ins in the same night, Webber posted on Facebook to warn other residents. 

“They broke into two of my neighbor’s cars and stole everything, then attempted a car right in front of our house,” Webber said. 

These off-campus incidents in Allendale are reflective of a larger trend in the greater Grand Rapids Area, which began two years ago. 

In addition to car break-ins, the Grand Rapids Police Department has been struggling to keep auto thefts under control. From 2019 to 2020, the number of auto thefts in the city rose from 298 to 803. In 2021, the number fell to 792. 

In this span of time, GRPD has gone from responding to an average of less than one auto theft per day, to over two. 

Since the beginning of 2022, there have been 114 reports of vehicle break-ins and thefts, as well as 80 additional reports of motor vehicle thefts in Grand Rapids. 

In order to prevent thefts of this capacity from starting in Allendale, students must take action, but also prioritize their own safety. 

Grand Valley police officer Leah Heaton said keeping students informed is the key to limiting these break-ins, damages and other illegal activities.

“If you see a vehicle break-in or any criminal activity call 911, never approach or confront someone you suspect of committing a crime and give dispatch a physical description and direction of travel and wait for police to respond,” Heaton said.   

As for the vehicle break-ins occurring off-campus, students living at 48 West and other apartment complexes can be comforted by the fact that both the Grand Valley and Ottawa County Police Departments are investigating them. 

In past cases, using evidence provided by students like Webber and utilizing technologies installed on and off campus have helped the police to stop further offenses from occurring.

“We do have cameras in the parking lots that can be used to track suspect individuals and have gotten confessions based on camera investigations,” Heaton said. 

While it’s promising that these crimes are being investigated by professionals, this does not mean students should let their guard down. 

Heaton advises that students still take some precautions to ensure the safety of their vehicles and belongings. 

“Park in well-lit areas if possible, always lock your vehicle and remove or hide any items of value from the vehicle,” Heaton said. 

If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911. 

For other campus-related issues, the Grand Valley Police Department can be reached at 616-331-3325. For more information students can visit