Tailgates target of thefts

Chase Hinkle's 2010 Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck had its tailgate stolen from the Arts Center Parking Lot recently. The missing tailgate is one of two stolen from parked vehicles on campus in the last month.

Orange Coast College Campus Safety is taking a proactive approach after the tailgates of two Toyota Tacoma pick-up trucks were removed in OCC campus lots in February.

Campus Safety assistants have been told to be on the lookout for suspicious activity around trucks.

“An increase in patrol in the parking lots have been enforced,” Director of Campus Safety Jim Rudy said. “Over the past 10 days we’ve had two (tailgate thefts), and for (Campus Safety) that heightens our attention that these are occurring.”

According to Campus Safety Officer Charles Melton, the Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck’s parts are popular with thieves. Melton responded to a tailgate theft from a 2013 Toyota Tacoma that took place on the Adams Avenue Parking Lot Feb. 7.

“Tacoma tailgates un-clip and have a quick release to slide them off, making it convenient for owners but easy for thieves,” Melton said.

Grainy video footage from a camera located on OCC’s LeBard Stadium documented the time of the event, but specific details of the crime were undetected.

“You can see that the pick-up truck was parked there. In one frame the light-colored tailgate is there and you can see a person approach. Suddenly, there’s a dark spot where the light spot of the tailgate was,” Melton said.

 According to Rudy and Melton, cameras surrounding the parking lots are not set up to be a security surveillance system. “The camera systems are set up to monitor how full campus parking lots are,” Melton said.

Rudy said Campus Safety has been in discussions with OCC to enhance the campus parking surveillance system.

“(Cameras) are very expensive,” Rudy said. “To get one good high-quality camera you’re talking $4,000 and then to hard wire the camera system, it’s a significant expense — a project that may be phased in over time.”

The approximate value of the two stolen tailgates can be upwards of $1,500 each.  

“They have a back-up camera system in the tailgate so it’s a high cost to replace,” Melton said.

According to The National Insurance Crime Bureau, in 2016 there were 1,877 claims for tailgate theft and 1,788 in 2017, making California one of the leading states for tailgate theft.

For Tacoma trucks prior to 2016, owners can attach a hose clamp or after-market tailgate lock to prevent thieves from removing the tailgate. They can also mark the tailgate with the owner’s license plate number so it can be identified if it is recovered.

Tailgate locks are now standard equipment on Toyota Tacoma pick-up trucks on 2016 models and after.

Chase Hinkle, 33, owns the 2010 Toyota Tacoma whose tailgate was removed from his truck Feb. 16 in the Art Center Parking Lot.

“I met (friends) for a game of Pokemon at about 11 a.m. and parked in the lot behind Starbucks,” Hinkle said. “At 1:50 p.m. I came back and my tailgate was gone. (The thieves) knew what they were doing.”

According to Hinkle, the estimated value for his 2010 Tacoma tailgate is between $1,000 and $2,000. For now, it’s not an urgent issue for Hinkle to replace his older model tailgate.

“Campus security was extremely helpful,” Hinkle said. “They were great and they followed up.”

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