Inshallah Jones, a senior mass communications major returned to the DUAL1 apartment complex where she resides, and parked her tan colored 1990 cutlass Cierra in the parking lot to the back of the building on Sept 8, around 10p.m.
The next morning, she was greeted with an empty parking spot and tons of questions as to what happened to her car. It was stolen.
Over the Labor Day weekend, the DUAL apartments saw a spate of car break-ins forcing residents to point fingers in the direction of the parking lot’s off-and-on broken automatic gate.
It came to the point that Jones’ car was actually stolen, for the gate to be reported again and fixed- only to be broken again after a couple of days.
"It bothers me that there has been another situation with that gate over there and nobody has reported anything to me directly," said Chief Jacqueline Bumpas, Dillard’s new director of public safety.
Jones’ car was found through her own efforts two days later. The day the car was stolen, she made prompt action when she discovered it missing.
Around 7:50 a.m on Sept 9., she immediately placed a call to the New Orleans Police Department after being unable to reach Juanita Lang, the DUAL apartment’s manager. Lang usually begins her shift at the apartment around 8:30 a.m., Jones said.
When Lang arrived, Jones said, she was able to make contact with Dillard’s police department. Jones said, Dillard’s officer, Sgt. Andrew Chambliss, along with the NOPD officer wrote up a report on the stolen vehicle.
Jones said she alerted the officers about the broken gate and that she parked her car the farthest from that gate. She said she knew she locked the doors, because she has an automatic lock system and alerted the officers that there was no broken glass on the floor to indicate how the perpetrator was able to steal the car.
But with thoughts on never being able to locate her stolen car, Jones asked Chambliss and the NOPD officer whether she could receive any form of compensation..
Jones said Chambliss told her it was not the DUPD’s department to address such claims and directed her to Nick Harris in the office business services.
It was then Jones said she received remarks from the NOPD officer that "Dillard isn’t going to take care of anything. I don’t know why you have your hopes up," the officer told Jones with a laugh.
Jones said Harris told her that an insurance company in connection with Dillard would investigate the claim. Jones only had accident insurance on her car, which does not include thefts.
It was only until Jones’ car was found that the insurance company came out, she said, to make estimates on the damages.
A relative of Jones’ boyfriend told the couple that he had spotted the car, after verifying the license number, in the eighth ward at North Villerie and Spain. Jones’ boyfriend, understanding the delay it would have taken the NOPD to arrive, and not wanting the car to get away, seized the car and returned it to its owner.
Jones said the car was parked behind another car, with its hood up, and she said she believes the suspects could have been mechanics and may have been using her car to transport stolen car parts. There was a transmitter in her back seat, oil and grease on the furniture and dashboard and the car kept cutting off, as it was low on gas.
Jones said she immediately called the NOPD, who told her it was a bad idea to have taken the car back, but Jones said she let them know she wasn’t taking any chances. The officers told her it would be harder to find fingerprints, but took the transmitter from the back seat to follow any leads.
Still waiting for estimates as of Monday, Sept 20, Jones said she wants to get the whole situation over with and is willing to put to best use how much she is offered.
Chief Bumpas, on the other hand, said she is not sure that is how the process works. Bumpas said students are required to have their own insurance first and that after filing a stolen car report with the NOPD and with Dillard’s police department, students should inform their own insurance companies, giving them the report’s item number. Bumpas said it was then the responsibility of that student’s insurance company to investigate and to make any forms of compensation, and not the university.
"Can you imagine what it would cost if the university was responsible for every claim?" Bumpas asked. "I’m no different," she said, "Everyone on this campus is responsible for their own vehicle."
Bumpas cautioned students not to be relying on someone else to provide insurance that they should already have.
Bumpas immediately called Harris to confirm what took place with the insurance claim made by Jones. Harris told Bumpas by phone that her knowledge of the university’s policy with car thefts is correct. But Harris did not mention or clarify to Bumpas on the phone whether an exception was made in Jones’ case.
Jones insists that it was a Dillard insurance partner that assessed her damages and not her own.
Bumpas, however, is even more concerned with the broken gate at the DUAL apartments.
She said she knows for a fact that the gate was fixed after the spate of break-ins and that it was fixed after Jones’ car was stolen. Bumpas said that every time the gate broke, it cost the university roughly $600.
Bumpas said officers are posted at the DUAL apartments and there are others making rounds.
"There’s a breakdown somewhere," she said, "How would it be if you see something and not report it," said Bumpas, questioning whether students or outsiders were responsible for the broken gate or whether the gate is experiencing technical problems.
Jones said she hears students say that they like the gate being open and are not concerned if it is broken, until they get their car stolen, that is.
Erin Grimes, a junior english major from Nashville, Tenn., who lives in the DUAL apartments, said that students like the access the broken gate brings so they can easily and quickly get into the parking lot.
But Grimes thinks students should take responsibility and simply report the gate problems.
"It’s scary to know that extra method of safety is not there for those who need it and that this neighborhood is not as safe as we think it is," she said.
Bumpas said she is asking students to make a more conscientious effort to report everything whether it be that they are not seeing evidence of police presence that is supposed to be at the apartments, or the gate is broken again. Bumpas said she is committed to correcting these things and strengthening the Dillard police department.
Bumpas said campus safety is everybody�s business.
"If it [the broken gate] is my fault, your fault, everybody’s fault, we need to get it resolved," Bumpas said.
"We need to get a campus watch," she said. "It’s not only for my safety but for Joe Blow because it’s all about working together. I don’t think that concept has sunk in here as yet."