Clarification: This article was changed at 1:44 a.m. on Thursday Nov. 8 to make clear that when University police officers treat cart theft as a felony they are acting under California law.
A joyride on a campus golf cart left unattended may be a crossing thought amongst students’ minds but several significant consequences would follow afterward, said Capt. Scot Willey of the University Police department.
On Oct. 5, a golf cart from the athletics department was stolen by a group of Cal State Fullerton students, and later retrieved by the University Police. The golf cart was worth around $12,000. The cart was found and three arrests were made.
University Police officers treat cart thefts as felonies under California law, not as misdemeanors, Willey said.
A misdemeanor would mean the person who stole the cart would possibly get a citation for their crime. A felony would result in harsher repercussions with the person being handcuffed and booked into jail.
“It’s not something that we deal with very often. Maybe once a year, we get reported that a cart has been moved without somebody’s permission,” Willey said. “It’s not often that we catch somebody in a cart that has stolen it. That is very rare.”
Older golf carts tend to be easier to steal since they could potentially be turned on with random keys, while newer ones may be more difficult to take.
If the cart isn’t returned, the department or division that is responsible for it would have to pay for the full cost of the cart out of its budget, said Summer Rivera, chief financial officer for the athletics department.
“We have to go through the University Contracts and Procurement Department and from that point, the delivery of that cart would be anywhere from three to six months,” Rivera said.
Rivera said that golf carts for the athletics department, which are typically two-seaters, four-seaters and flatbeds, can range anywhere from $8,000 to $11,000.
The last golf cart that was bought for the University Police department cost about $17,000 and could transport eight people, Willey said.
Though the golf carts are generally being driven through campus, different departments use them for several reasons. The ones used by College Park are generally used for VIPs or to give campus tours, while the facilities department may use its carts to move across campus easily.
The athletics department uses its carts for recruits and visitors as well as supplies, Rivera said.
“For example, our athletic training room, they use golf carts to transport medical supplies to our events, and our sports program uses golf carts to transport equipment,” Rivera said.
The University Police department uses its carts primarily at night while escorting people to their vehicles, Willey said.
Willey said cart thefts should be treated as a “cautionary tale.”
“Just because you’re on a college campus doesn’t lessen the value or the importance or significance of the crime. You’re still going to be charged. You’re still going to be treated the same as you were out on the city and did the same kind of thing,” Willey said.