Car Break-Ins Around Campus Raise Concern Among Students

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Fia Cooper

“Unfortunately, sometimes crime does happen,” Vice Principal of Student Life Mr. Brian Devine said. “Our hope is that we can minimize that and reduce the impact of that.”

By Megan Snyder, La Salle Catholic Preparatory High School

Junior soccer player Clare Daudelin immediately noticed something wrong when walking through the La Salle parking lot after school this past fall. The right front passenger window of her car was shattered, with glass spread over the seats. Her bag of practice gear that she intended to use that day was nowhere to be found.

This break-in was not an isolated event, as there have been several other instances of theft on campus: one car was stolen, two catalytic converters were stolen, and at least five car break-ins have occurred this school year alone. 

Although this issue is not new to the school, the number of thefts and break-ins has appeared to increase this year, raising concern among students and staff.

“I’ve definitely seen an increase this year, and I think it definitely parallels an increase that we’re seeing around the city,” Vice Principal of Student Life Mr. Brian Devine said.

In response to this issue, Mr. Devine said he has been in contact with the Clackamas Sheriff’s office, who confirmed that there has been a rise in nonviolent crime in Milwaukie and in Clackamas County. 

“We want La Salle to still feel like a welcoming place for everyone and for it to be a place where people can easily access,” Mr. Devine said. “But at the same time we know that we need some more measures in place to protect some of the property that’s on campus.”

Some students commented on the lack of security coverage in the parking lots, expressing concern that there was a lack of accountability for those who commit crimes on campus. “I don’t think we should put gates on the parking lot because that seems a bit extreme, but just a camera or something because you could see where the person’s going, or keep an eye out for that person if they are around campus again … just [to have] some sort of resolution,” Daudelin said. 

In addition to the break-ins, junior Leo Sanchez’s entire car was stolen during the school day earlier this year. “I came out of school and my car was missing,” he said. 

Sanchez echoed Daudelin’s request for more cameras on campus because, to this day, he still doesn’t know who stole his car or where it ended up.

Another student who recently experienced a break-in on campus is senior Owen Cote. “I went out to my car one day after school, and my glove box was open and my charging cord was gone and a pair of my headphones,” he said. 

Although she hasn’t experienced any theft on campus, junior Allison Weber is concerned about her belongings being stolen after hearing about the experiences of her peers.  “I am [concerned] knowing that there are people out there capable of breaking into our cars, especially since I know someone that it’s happened to,” she said. 

La Salle recently hosted a safety audit where members of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office walked through the entire campus and gave feedback on where vulnerabilities exist, and advised on how to improve security internally and externally.

“We’re not a school in a bubble,” Mr. Devine said. “We’re a school that exists in a community, and there are some amazing things about the community that we exist in, and then there’s also some things that are hard.” 

The administration is considering hiring new staff who can patrol the parking lot during the school day and is working with a camera company to expand the school’s security camera capacity. 

There are security cameras at all entrances and exits, but they are mainly focused on internal security, and while cameras still exist in the parking lots, the technology is too outdated to be used today. “Because of the number of thefts we’ve had, we’re really looking to try to include parking lot cameras in our repertoire of safety and security measures,” Mr. Devine said. 

When a theft does occur, reporting it to the front office will allow the school to respond accordingly. “Our school will immediately work with the students and the family to notify the police to make a report,” Mr. Devine said. “If we see something happening in progress, we obviously will call 911 immediately, and the sheriff’s office is quick to respond.” 

The most prominent piece of advice shared by these students is to simply not leave any valuables in your car so that thieves aren’t able to identify visible property. They also encouraged students to make sure that they remember to keep their cars locked during the school day.

“Lock your car, and don’t leave anything valuable in it,” Cote said. “If you do have something valuable, make sure it’s in the trunk or somewhere out of sight from the windows.” 

This story was originally published on The La Salle Falconer on May 25, 2022.