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Student Theft as Campus Grows

Theft is No Laughing Matter on UCM Campus

Theft is an unfortunate part of living in a community- the more unfortunate part is being a victim. According to, the most common things stolen are cash, electronics (laptops, cellphones, iPods, etc.), bikes, books, jewelry, and credit/debit cards. More often, however, is the fact that students inadvertently leave these items unattended- either carrying too much cash, or leaving a dorm room unlocked.

Nevertheless, mistakes like this are sometimes unavoidable, so perhaps it is more useful to address theft from the legal standpoint. I sat down with Sergeant George Gongora, with concern toward certain legal distinctions in theft.

Officer Gongora first urged that students register their electronic items. Doing so allows the police at UC Merced to take down the serial number, make, and model of the product, which eases the process of finding the stolen property.

As for punishment of recovered items, Gongora stated that most punishments are judged based on Penal code 47, which states the distinction between petty and grand thefts. Gongora added however that the penalties are often dependent on the specific case.

Generally, petty thefts include the theft of an item less than a monetary value of $950. A peculiar case among a multitude of exceptions is fruits and vegetables, which if exceeding $250, would constitute a grand theft.  Normally, this type of theft represents a loss of property equaling or exceeding $950. The exception in this case is firearms.  No matter the price, it is considered grand theft.

Officer Gongora would not comment on the frequency of successful recoveries. Instead, he responded by urging the importance of registering electronics so that if needed, they can notify other police stations in neighboring districts.

Students who have been robbed find themselves in the lamentable situation of trying to either recover the value lost, or function without the item. Agustin Roldan, a junior who had his laptop stolen a year ago, suggests getting a warranty with the laptop.

 "After my laptop was stolen, I called HP, and presented them with my claim at the police station. Right away, they gave me credit towards buying a new laptop that was tantamount to the price of the stolen one."

Theft off campus is a far greater  issue than on campus. It is not uncommon to hear of someone whose house or car was broken into. In all circumstances however, it is crucial that one reports the theft immediately. Doing so allows police officers to keep a vigilant eye out for the stolen property.

In more rare cases on campus, items thought stolen may have actually been misplaced, and a good samaritan may have turned it into lost and found. Items not claimed after 90 days are auctioned off for charity.