UPDATE: Friday morning, Mercer Police informed the student body via email that 20 vehicles were entered while parked in "multiple Macon campus parking lots." The previous count in this article was at least 10. The email also noted that "additional overnight patrols have been added to deter future break-ins."
Students across campus are reeling after a "rash of car break-ins early Thursday morning," the university said in an email to The Cluster.
The university says it knows of 20 cars that were entered. Mercer Police is currently reviewing surveillance camera footage and inventorying stolen items from the vehicles.
One of the damaged cars belongs to Sarah Awad '23. When she walked to her car at 8 a.m. Thursday in the yellow-decal admissions parking lot, she said she started shaking because she was so scared.
"Nothing like that has ever happened to me before so I didn’t know what to do," she said. "I called my dad first, and he told me to call the police and take pictures and videos. I first called MerPo, and they said they were aware of the break-ins and that it has happened all over campus. That’s when I noticed about 10 other cars in the admissions parking lot had a broken window as well."
Awad said MerPo took down her information over the phone and told her they'd get back to her. She did not want to leave her car alone until she got in-person help.
"About 10 minutes pass, and I see a MerPo car driving through the (admissions lot) so I stick out my hand so I could get some answers from someone, and the officer looked right at me and kept driving. That’s when I broke down and started crying because I was frustrated and no one was telling me anything," she said. "Another 10 minutes pass and another officer is driving through, and luckily enough for me, he was kind enough to talk to me and give me some insight."
According to Awad, the officer who stopped to talk to her informed her that "this type of thing happens every now and again" and that it is likely "gang-related." She said she is left feeling unsure about how secure Mercer's campus really is after this experience.
"How are we going to be kept safe? I don’t even know where to park my car anymore because I’m scared," she said.
For now, Mercer is advising community members to exercise "preventative measures."
"Although preventative measures do not always deter break-ins, Mercer Police encourages students, faculty and staff to lock their vehicles and practice the 'clean car' rule – remove anything of value from sight, including small items such as spare change," Senior Vice President for Marketing Communications Larry Brumley said.
Mary Helene Hall ‘23 is a journalism and women’s and gender studies student who has worked for The Cluster throughout her time at Mercer. She has held internships at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and AL.com, where she covered a variety of topics including politics, crime and culture.