Assaults increase from prior year; reported sexual assaults decrease

By Allison Sues

Newly released crime statistics from the University Division of Public Safety show aggravated assaults and batteries have increased by 28 percent.

Between Sept. 1, 2004 and Aug. 31, 2005, 189 assaults were reported or observed as compared with 144 assaults during the past year.

Assistant Chief Kris Fitzpatrick, of the University Police, said that alcohol consumption plays a major role in the increased violence on campus.

Most of the study’s aggravated assaults and batteries took place on Green and Daniel Streets, two bar-lined areas that comprise most of Campustown. In addition to this area, many aggravated assaults occurred south of Green Street, between First and Fourth Streets, which holds a dense student population living in apartment complexes and fraternity houses.

Both campus bars and fraternity houses are commonly associated with a social drinking scene once night hits the campus, Fitzpatrick said.

“If you add alcohol to any situation, you are going to have people doing things they ordinarily wouldn’t do,” said Ilene Harned, coordinator of the Alcohol and Other Drug Office within McKinley Health Center. “Inhibitions are going to be released and some people become more violent.”

The increase in assaults on campus may coincide with increased binge drinking noticed on campus this year.

With fall semester halfway through, the Alcohol and Other Drug Office has 66 transports on record for students who needed to be taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. For the entire fall semester last year, a total of 89 transports were recorded.

A specific reason for the increase in on-campus binge drinking and violence is unknown. Harned said she thinks it may be due to a variety of reasons, citing the extended bar hours and the high potency of drink specials at the bars.

In August 2004, campus bars extended their night hours, closing at 2 a.m. instead of 1 a.m.

“That gives students one more hour to drink,” said Harned. “The drinks some are having are highly concentrated. Students need to know that when they are drinking ice bombs or jungle juice, they are sometimes having six or seven shots of alcohol, not just one drink.”

Harned warned that even light drinkers should remain cautious when socializing at bars, because they are surrounded by high-risk drinkers.

Sexual assaults reported or observed on campus decreased slightly, from 32 assaults between Sept. 1, 2003 and Aug. 31, 2004 to 26 assaults in the past year.

“This number is so marginal, it really doesn’t tell us anything,” Fitzpatrick said, adding that the vast majority of these crimes go unreported.

“There are few crimes where you have victims saying that it is their fault,” she said. “Women do not report these crimes because there is a lot of self-blame in rape cases, especially ones where the woman was drinking alcohol or put herself in a dangerous situation. There is a ‘deserve-what-I-got’ mentality.”

The sexual assaults reported were far more prevalent in Champaign than in Urbana.

Reported robberies on campus, which did not increase significantly this year, were heavily concentrated on the Northwest corner of campus, particularly north of Green Street and between Third and Wright Streets.

Ashley Schneider, senior in LAS, lives in this area on Clark Street. Other people in her apartment building have had problems with crime, she said.

“We’re nervous about robberies, so we’re going to get a new dead bolt for our door,” Schneider said. “It depends where you are on campus whether you are safe. I always make sure to walk in large groups, carry keys and not use my cell phone or CD player.”

Valerie Brisky, senior in Engineering, said she was surprised that there was an increase in reported assaults. She either uses safe rides or walks in groups to feel safe on campus.

“Man or woman, it doesn’t matter, nobody should walk alone,” Fitzpatrick said. “Bad guys aren’t stupid, they are going to go for easy targets.”

Fitzpatrick advised students to walk in groups and drink responsibly to avoid being an easy target.