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Stanford University sees rise in car burglaries

Break-ins so far this month triples total in 2016

Six vehicles were burgled on the Stanford University campus Thursday, followed by two more on Friday, making a total of 61 car break-ins recorded since the start of the month, the university's Department of Public Safety said Tuesday.

Friday's burglaries both occurred around 6:25 p.m. at the Stanford Golf Course parking lot and near Cantor Arts Center, respectively, department officials said. Witnesses reported the golf course burglary as it was happening; they described the suspect vehicle as a black Honda sedan or coupe with a dent in the right rear of the vehicle. The two burglars were described as black men in their 20s wearing hooded sweatshirts, but the department didn't immediately have further details on their physical descriptions.

On Thursday, six burglaries occurred near the Track House parking lot and the Cantor Arts Center during the daytime hours, and in five of those cases the perpetrator or perpetrators broke a window to enter the vehicle, public safety officials said. Department spokesman Bill Larson said that Thursday's break-ins are believed to be related, but it is unclear what relationship they may have to other burglaries earlier this month.

Although other break-ins earlier this month in various lots throughout campus, seven vehicles were burgled on the Oval and six near the intersection of Roth Way and the Oval in the vicinity of the Cantor Arts Center. The Oval, which acts as the entrance to Stanford's campus, is the roundabout portion of Palm Drive encircling a large central lawn. Drivers may park their vehicles on various portions on the road itself as well as on adjacent lots.

All but two of the burglary cases so far this month involved a smashed window, department officials said. It's not clear how the remaining break-ins occurred, possibly through an unlocked door. Jewelry, passports, laptops, iPads, cameras, camera bags and purses were among the items stolen from cars.

The string of smash-and-grabs marks an unusual increase from the two to three that typically occur each month on campus, Larson said. In 2016, there were 20 total vehicle burglaries reported on campus, while 102 have been recorded since the beginning of this year, over half of which took place in October alone.

The department issued an alert on Thursday advising drivers not to leave their valuables in vehicles and to alert police of any suspicious activity. Vehicle owners are also advised to park in well-lit areas.

No suspects have been identified, but witnesses said they saw a white male involved in one or more cases. Witnesses across multiple cases noted a vehicle and potential burglar of the same description. It is not clear whether those descriptions are connected to Friday's burglars.

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