After a UTD student left work the night of April 6 to find her car and all its contents, including her laptop and textbooks, stolen, her friend posted an online fundraiser to the UTD subreddit to help. Less than 24 hours later, the university community had donated nearly $200.
Computer science senior Nika Darab ended her shift in downtown Dallas at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night and headed to the parking lot where she’d left her car earlier that day. Once she got there, she realized her car had disappeared. Assuming it had gotten towed, she called 911 to get the report.
“I called 911 because (towing companies) give the report to 911 if they tow a car but they said they haven’t received anything,” Darab said. “And then it dawned on me that someone might have stolen it. I really like didn’t know how to act so I just sat on the floor and tears were coming out of my eyes. It was pretty terrible.”
Darab then called the cops, who came to the scene where she was able to report the robbery.
“I thought my car was gone for good, and they told me that it’s very common that they take the cars for joyriding which is crazy to me because there is really no joy in riding my car,” Darab said. “(It’s a) really old car that I personally don’t feel safe in.”
After filing the report, Darab had a friend drive her home, where she took to Twitter to vent. Soon after, her friend, computer science junior Stephanie Quinto, saw the post and created a GoFundMe and shared it on her social media as well as the UTD subreddit in an attempt to raise money to replace Darab’s laptop.
“I knew the Comet community was really giving, and I found that at times of crisis and even at times of finals, we’re just kinda getting through it and I find it super giving,” Quinto said. “To see what the community is actually like in a time of need just shows a lot. Comets are really caring, and I’m really thankful for the Comet community for helping someone out in need.”
While the GoFundMe raised $177, students also offered their used laptops and cars to Darab in the meantime.
“It was so amazing. The post was on Reddit. I had strangers offering me their old laptop. I had a classmate telling me he has a car he doesn’t use that often,” Darab said. “People are really unreal. It just blew my mind.”
Two days after the theft, Darab received a call from the detective working her case. Her car was found after the person who stole it was pulled over and an officer ran the license plate. Although Darab said that the robbery was frightening, she understood how it happened.
“The lock on the driver seat doesn’t work,” Darab said. “That night it got stolen I didn’t lock it because I haven’t locked it before. So I actually had a spare key in my car too behind all the trash. They used the key to steal it.”
Darab used the money from the GoFundMe to get her car back after it was impounded. The experience taught her a lot about UTD and the campus community, she said.
“The fact that people who don’t even know me helped me just moved me and really changed my perspective,” Darab said. “I generally feel really disconnected at UTD, so that was really cool to see that people are here to help.”
Darab said she now triple-checks her locks and avoids leaving valuables in her car. She credits Quinto with helping her through the experience. The pair have been friends since meeting at Richland College in 2017.
“It was a short time that everything went missing, but it felt like an eternity. This was the lowest I’ve ever been. Someone took all of your belongings without your consent,” Darab said. “I never thought I would get my car back. Steph is one of those people that goes above and beyond, she has the biggest heart I’ve ever seen.”
After the suspect was arrested, Darab tried to pursue legal action before abandoning the effort.
“I told (the police) I wanted to follow up and sue this person, so I called the sheriff’s department multiple times, but no one picked up,” Darab said. “I’m just happy, thankful and lucky getting my car back.”