Crime and Safety, News

Parking lots, garages sites of vehicle theft, damage

When senior David Levin came back to school after winter break in 2013,  he went to the Mahoney-Pearson garage to check on his car, a six-month old white Porsche Panamerica Turbo. When he arrived, he found the driver’s side window smashed. A few months before this, a car next to his in the University Village lot dinged his door.

Levin’s experiences are part of several issues that commuter students parking in on-campus lots and garages. According to 2014-2015 data from the University of Miami Police Department, incidents like Levin’s are most likely to happen in the red, purple, pink and white lots.

Red parking is near the Dooley Memorial Building and School of Communication, the Mahoney-Pearson garage belongs to white parking, purple parking is near the Frost School of Music and Gusman Hall, and the pink lot comprises Pavia garage and other smaller lots near the University Center.

In the past year, there have been 186 thefts on or nearby campus, and 11 of them were thefts of a motor vehicle and one was a theft of an auto tag. There were 23 burglaries – six of those were vehicle burglaries and one vehicle was stolen from the lot near the Wellness Center.

Levin says he had multiple problems with UMPD and the Office of Parking and Transportation after his car was broken into. When he presented his issues to the police, Levin says the department did a “very sloppy job” with the investigation.

According to Levin, UMPD claimed that their security cameras wouldn’t be able to show who broke into his car. When Levin asked to look at the tapes, he says they told him to get a warrant.

“I drove over to the courthouse and I tried getting a warrant for the videos,” Levin said. “I was told something around the lines of ‘you really need a lawsuit to get a warrant.’”

Levin took further action, meeting with university administrators and UMPD officers. He wanted to know what went wrong with his investigation and if it was possible to keep his car safe on campus.

“Their answer to me was ‘No – no one’s car is safe because not every area has security cameras and even if there are security cameras in the area, it depends on the amount of damage,’” Levin said.

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Levin says that instead of looking for alternatives, it was suggested to him that he install a security camera system in his own car like the ones installed in UMPD police cars.

“Basically, the solution is, I have to install dash cams on my windows that record 24/7 with high memory, bring an external hard drive and a car battery inside my car also,” Levin said. “It’s something they want to deal with, but can’t afford it.”

Student safety in the Pavia garage has also been cited as a concern for commuter students. Sophomore Luis Mejia, a Student Government  (SG) commuter senator, is concerned about the sharp turns students make while driving in Pavia garage.

“There need to be larger mirrors so you can see oncoming cars coming in the opposite direction when you’re making turns,” Mejia said.

SG’s Campus Liaison Council, which helps Senate communicate with administrative offices, is working on the issue in Pavia Garage. According to Sophomore Lauren Rodriguez, who is the liaison for Parking and Transportation, they are hoping to get the mirrors changed over the summer.

“My partner, Quinn Kásal and I have been meeting with the director of Parking and Transportation on a biweekly basis to ensure that he is aware of this concern,” Rodriguez said. “We believe that having bigger mirrors in Pavia Garage will ensure student safety by providing a clearer view of oncoming traffic as students drive up and down the garage ramps.”

Nicholas Poynter, Parking and Transportation Services’ customer service manager says this is an easy issue to fix.

“We can simply put in a work order and it’s just putting up a larger mirrors,” Poynter said. 

“I’m assuming it’s one of those curved ‘r’ mirrors to give the ability to see around the corner; that’s an easy fix.”

Another concern is pedestrian safety in the red lot. Levin was alarmed when he discovered in his meeting with UM administrators and UMPD that the “red lot didn’t have any security cameras at all.” Levin asked about installation of security cameras and said they told him it would cost somewhere “between $1-3 million” to install cameras because there’s “no electricity in that area.”

Senior Megan Spears says she feels uncomfortable walking through the red lot at night because she thinks it is poorly lit.

“When I have to walk to my car at the far end of the lot at night alone, it seems like a potentially unsafe situation,” she said.

Poynter encourages students to let Parking and Transportation know about their concerns when it comes to parking lot safety, especially if students don’t feel comfortable walking through the lots at night.

“Even if it’s only a temporary solution, we can put something up there to resolve that and certainly make sure people are feeling safe at night in a certain lot,” Poynter said.

Another student who struggles with parking in red is senior Megan Stockamp. She finds the parking in red “miserable” and thinks if she drove anything larger than her Honda Fit she wouldn’t even bother parking there.

“There is no way an entire row of parking can fit a car in every spot and there not be a chance a car will get hit either entering or exiting a space and when people try to get out of their cars,” Stockamp said.

Still, students like senior Richey Fraga say that they’ve never had any problems parking in the red lot.

“I have parked in red since my freshman year and love it,” Fraga said. “I have actually parked in the same spot every day, unless it was taken, which is rare. One of the reasons I picked it was because that’s where my dad parked when he came here, and as dumb as it sounds, it’s pretty cool to maintain the legacy.”

Senior Melissa Damas has also not had any problems with her parking experience.

“I know that there will eventually be a spot I can park in and I don’t mind the extra walk if it’s farther away from my class,” Damas said. “Some people just park very terrible in small spaces, but there are enough where I can eventually find a spot with little trouble.”

According to Poynter, Parking and Transportation is aware of the situation and is looking to solve the issues in the red lot. He says there is a plan in the works to improve the area, but “that’s going to take some time.”

The University of Miami Police Department was not available for comment at time of publication.

Nicholas Poynter, Parking and Transportation Services’ customer service manager says this is an easy issue to fix.

“We can simply put in a work order and it’s just putting up a larger mirrors,” Poynter said.  “I’m assuming it’s one of those curved r mirrors to give the ability to see around the corner; that’s an easy fix.”

Another concern is pedestrian safety in the red lot. Levin was alarmed when he discovered in his meeting with UM administrators and UMPD that the “red lot didn’t have any security cameras at all.” Levin asked about installation of security cameras and said they told him it would cost somewhere “between $1-3 million” to install cameras because there’s “no electricity in that area.”

Senior Megan Spears says she feels uncomfortable walking through the red lot at night because she thinks it is poorly lit.

“When I have to walk to my car at the far end of the lot at night alone, it seems like a potentially unsafe situation,” she said.

Poynter encourages students to let Parking and Transportation know about their concerns when it comes to parking lot safety, especially if students don’t feel comfortable walking through the lots at night.

“Even if it’s only a temporary solution, we can put something up there to resolve that and certainly make sure people are feeling safe at night in a certain lot,” Poynter said.

Another student who struggles with parking in red is senior Megan Stockamp. She finds the parking in red “miserable” and thinks if she drove anything larger than her Honda Fit she wouldn’t even bother parking there.

“There is no way an entire row of parking can fit a car in every spot and there not be a chance a car will get hit either entering or exiting a space and when people try to get out of their cars,” Stockamp said.

Still, students like senior Richey Fraga say that they’ve never had any problems parking in the red lot.

“I have parked in red since my freshman year and love it,” Fraga said. “I have actually parked in the same spot every day, unless it was taken, which is rare. One of the reasons I picked it was because that’s where my dad parked when he came here, and as dumb as it sounds, it’s pretty cool to maintain the legacy.”

Senior Melissa Damas has also not had any problems with her parking experience.

“I know that there will eventually be a spot I can park in and I don’t mind the extra walk if it’s farther away from my class,” Damas said. “Some people just park very terrible in small spaces, but there are enough where I can eventually find a spot with little trouble.”

According to Poynter, Parking and Transportation is aware of the situation and is looking to solve the issues in the red lot. He says there is a plan in the works to improve the area, but “that’s going to take some time.”

The University of Miami Police Department was not available for comment at time of publication.

Featured image courtesy via Nic Redhead Flickr
March 25, 2015

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Megan McCrink


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