Crime rates on campus dropping

By Emily Sokolik

By Emily Sokolik

Staff Writer

Crime on campus has significantly decreased for the fall semester of 2006, according to statistics from the Division of Public Safety. All categories of crime declined, with the largest drop overall being robberies, dropping 47 percent.

The number of reported criminal sexual assaults dropped to seven, down from 11 during the same period in 2005. One report was made involving ‘Peeping Toms’ and public indecency, down from eight in 2005.

The decrease in all major crimes for the period Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2006, is partly attributed to the Division of Public Safety’s new method for reporting the number of aggravated assaults and batteries on campus.

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In the past, crime rates have been considerably higher at the University compared to peer institutions. The Jeanne Clery Act, a federal law mandating the disclosure of crime statistics for all colleges and universities, requires higher institutions to report only those crimes involving substantial injury or use of a weapon. The University’s statistics previously included all incidents, including minor injuries. The new statistics now reflect a revised method of reporting, consistent with other universities, to include only major campus crimes.

“If someone gets in a fight or just shoves a police officer, we were reporting that,” said Jeff Christensen, assistant chief of police for the University, “We’re no longer including first-aid incidents.”

Krystal Fitzpatrick, chief of police for the University, said a new safety program for all freshmen also contributed to the crime reduction. The Office of the Dean of Students created the program to address issues including pedestrian safety, theft and responsible drinking.

“(The program) gave everybody a chance to learn what was going on in the campus community and how to prevent criminal activity,” Fitzpatrick said.

Christensen added that the decreased number of robberies, from 32 in 2005 to 17 in 2006, came as a result of the public safety bulletin sent to students in October. The bulletin was distributed to students through e-mail and warned the campus community of increased criminal activity.

“People were more alert, didn’t walk alone at night and reported suspicious activity,” Christensen said.

Both Fitzpatrick and Christensen emphasize the outstanding work of the campus police force in monitoring crime and arresting offenders. Fitzpatrick added that crime prevention is most effective when the police and the community work together.

Christensen said he remains cautious about the declining crime rates, and urges students to stay alert. He added that drinking in excess should be avoided. Most incidents of aggravated battery and assault involve males and alcohol, Fitzpatrick said.

“Drinking responsibly diminishes the possibility of being both a victim and an assailant,” she said. Fitzpatrick is encouraged by the latest statistics but urged students to remain vigilant.

“Crime trends are just that – trends,” she said. “All it takes is one or two individuals to decide that Campustown is an easy place to commit robberies or theft. That can really skew your statistics.”