Police release 2004 crime statistics

By Katie Heinz

Violent crime in the city of Champaign rose this year, according to the 2004 Crime Statistics Report released last week by the Champaign Police Department.

Violent crime increased by 9.2 percent from 1,771 incidents in 2003 to 1,934 incidents in 2004. This statistic includes batteries, assaults, robberies, murders, manslaughter, vehicular hijackings and reckless conduct.

The number of sexual assaults significantly rose by 48 percent to 55 incidents in 2004. The number of murders declined by 71.4 percent to two incidents in 2004.

These numbers are lower in comparison to the 2004 statistics for the city of Bloomington, Ill., where Illinois State University is located. The number of reported sexual assaults and murders were 65 and four, respectively.

Property crime in Champaign decreased by 4.9 percent from 3,126 reported incidents in 2003 to 2,972 incidents in 2004.

Champaign Crime Analyst Gary Spear said crime typically fluctuates every year, but the increase in violent crime is a concern for the department.

“It’s a problem,” Spear said. “We have to determine a pattern, an area of town, a time of day when most of the crimes are happening. We need to find out why this is and then deal with the problem.”

But Spear said crime in Champaign has declined over the past six or seven years. The long-term trends in crime are more important than year-to-year comparisons, he said.

“Short-term trends offer a glance but long-term trends give us a very good idea of where manpower and efforts need to be concentrated,” Spear said.

Lt. Holly Nearing is in charge of Beat 21, the area encompassing a portion of campus. Although campus makes up only a small part of the city, it is large in population and the busiest part of the city in terms of crime. The area encompasses numerous bars, fraternities and sororities. In most crimes, local criminals are victimizing students.

Nearing said a number of factors contribute to this.

“The number of pedestrians, the high density of people, vehicles, parties and apartments – all contribute to a high amount of crime on campus,” Nearing said.

Nearing said the department is busier later into the night since the bar closing hour was extended to 2 a.m. in August 2003.

“Calls used to spike between 1-2 a.m., but now it’s 2-3 a.m., right after the bars close,” Nearing said. “There are more officers on campus during the night shift, intensive patrol.”

University Crime Prevention Coordinator Tony Ortiz said students should be aware of their surroundings at all times and should not walk alone at night. Ortiz said students should utilize MTD transportation, such as buses and SafeRides, and University services such as the Student Patrol Escort Service, which operates from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

“Plan ahead and find out what kind of transportation is available,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz coordinates a self-defense course and several presentations for personal safety each year on campus.

For more information on University services available, visit the Division of Public Safety Web site at www.dps.uiuc.edu.