An overwhelming amount of car break-ins occurring on the University of Memphis campus in recent weeks is leaving students on edge.
Early last week, numerous students had their vehicles broken into at the parking lot of the housing building Carpenter Complex. Though Carpenter had the most break-ins, the Zach Curlin Parking Garage, Memphis Speech and Hearing Center’s lot, and the Scheidt Family Performing Arts Center lot were all hit by vandalism and theft. By Saturday, Oct. 21 thirty-six cars were broken into on or near campus. Additionally, over fall break on Oct. 14, nine cars were broken into, with at least one resulting in the theft of a registered firearm.
"They broke into my car and stole my gun," the student said, who wished to remain anonymous. Not only do these offenses cause students to feel unsafe walking to their cars, but they also cause students to spend money repairing the damages inflicted. One student, also remaining anonymous, who had his window busted on the passenger side of his vehicle predicted that the replacement would cost around $350.
Memphis has a higher amount of crime than most US cities, but recently there has been a dramatic increase. Studies show that in the first three months of 2023, the rate of major property crimes, including burglaries and vehicle and property thefts in the Memphis area increased by 43%. According to the U of M safety page, the car vandalism which has been occurring frequently and repeatedly throughout the city also comprises the majority of crimes on campus. Despite being ranked the safest large campus in Tennessee in 2022, break-ins show no sign of slowing down.
Some students are questioning the campus police's lack of urgency when it comes to their needs, like Jayla Bryant, who recently spoke to WREG Channel 3 after her car was broken into.
“I don’t know like I just felt like it was no rush,” she said. “I’m like, what am I supposed to do? If this is such a safe campus, why all our cars are broken into?”
There have also been complaints that campus police arrived at the Carpenter Complex in a non-timely manner, and when they arrived, they were not very friendly or compassionate.
"The students really just want someone who will listen to them and make their voices feel heard," said sophomore Aarieonna Bailey.
Bailey stated that while she was not a victim of the car break-ins, she greatly worries about the possibility of ending up in that position.
Students have been making great efforts to ensure that their voices are heard. Some have taken to reaching out and requesting meetings with important university figures like Dean of Students Justin Lawhead and President Bill Hardgrave to divulge their experiences, voice their concerns, and advocate for solutions. Over the last few months, several local news organizations have covered Memphis' growing campus crime. The university hosted a safety and security Town Hall this past Friday on Oct. 27, with Dean Lawhead, Executive Director of Safety Mark Heath, and Assistant Chief of Police Services Don Crowe in attendance to answer students' questions.
Despite complaints, the U of M has been making an effort to keep campus safe for students, and deter crime. Recently, the university received about five million dollars from the Tennessee state government to install different appliances around campus with expectations to improve safety and security for students. The appliances will be equipped in the next fiscal year, and include new and/or improved LED lighting, perimeter fencing and parking lot access control, intelligent camera installations, a comprehensive notification system, and mobile trailers and patrol vehicle replacements. The university also gave away steering wheel locks to students on campus to help prevent car thefts, but devices such as these are only for certain vehicle brands.