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As public perceives increase in crime, statistics say otherwise

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As public perceives increase in crime, statistics say otherwise

University Police stop a man on Green and Fifth streets who had an open alcoholic beverage in the vehicle. Crime has decreased on campus lately.

University Police stop a man on Green and Fifth streets who had an open alcoholic beverage in the vehicle. Crime has decreased on campus lately.

Daily Illini

University Police stop a man on Green and Fifth streets who had an open alcoholic beverage in the vehicle. Crime has decreased on campus lately.

Daily Illini

Daily Illini

University Police stop a man on Green and Fifth streets who had an open alcoholic beverage in the vehicle. Crime has decreased on campus lately.

By Jessica Bursztynsky, Staff Writer

Reports of violent crimes to the University Police Department have been steadily decreasing over the past few years, according to the University’s Annual Security & Fire Safety Report.

However, the decrease in campus crimes does not correlate with the community’s and nation’s fears. A recent Gallup poll indicates that 53 percent of Americans are concerned with the crime rates, the highest amount in 15 years.

“I think one of the things contributing to that perception is that UIPD is very proactive in telling our campus community members about crime when it occurs through Campus Safety Notices, Illini-Alert and social media,” said Patrick Wade, University Police spokesman.

Wade said that Illini-Alert, the messaging system that provides the public with an almost immediate notification of crimes, is necessary to keep people safe, but can have negative effects.

“We don’t want to scare people, but we also don’t want people to become complacent, so we try to achieve that balance,” Wade said.

University Police Chief Jeff Christensen said social media and the constant access to crime reports across the nation from the news media will cause a rise in people’s fears.

“In today’s world, in social media, you learn about so much,” Christensen said. “It makes people more fearful. There’s a difference between awareness and fear.”

Violent crimes such as rape, robbery and aggravated assault have decreased on the University campus.

In 2013, on the University campus alone, there were 40 liquor law arrests, compared to the 14 in 2015. Drug law arrests dropped from 74 in 2013 to 40 in 2015, while weapons law arrests remained the same at two in both 2013 and 2015.

Reports of stalking on campus have increased from three to 23 over the same time period; Wade attributes the large increase to a change in the report’s definition of stalking.

Previously, there had to be a transmission of a threat along with emotional distress for the police to pursue a stalking incident. However, now the requirement for a stalking report only needs to include emotional distress.

The rates of domestic violence and sexual assault have increased as well, which Wade said is due to a rise in education levels and victims becoming more comfortable with reporting such crimes.

“I would actually expect that number to continue increasing as our campus continues to increase awareness about issues of domestic violence and sexual misconduct,” Wade said. “I think that increase reflects that more people will be comfortable reporting these crimes to police, and not necessarily that there are more crimes occurring.”

Vanessa Herrera, senior in AHS, said she understands why University students would have the impression that crime is rising.

“(Crimes) have been reported more to the students,” Herrera said. “I noticed that when I came in as a freshman, they didn’t report the crimes, but now they have.”

Regardless of rates and levels of fear, Christensen said that the community should continue to use proper safety measures and look out for other students who may be in harm’s way.

“In terms of our peers and our statistics and numbers like that, we are a relatively safe campus,” Christensen said. “But we are not immune from crime.”

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