Reports of sex offenses, burglaries and liquor violations increase in 2008
The recently released 2008 Washington University annual crime report shows an increase in campus crime over past years. Areas that saw a significant increase include burglary, sexual assault and liquor violations.
There were 30 reported on-campus burglaries in 2008 as opposed to 12 in 2007. Fifteen of the burglaries took place over winter break. There have been no reported burglaries so far in 2009.
In addition to the rise in theft, reports of on-campus sexual assault rose from four in 2007 to seven in 2008. This does not necessarily indicate a rise in sexual assaults. Rather, said Chief of Police Don Strom, a rise in reported incidents could indicate that students feel more comfortable reporting sexual assaults to authorities.
“At Washington University, we have strived to create an environment where people feel comfortable reporting sexual assaults—where they feel that their circumstances will be handled with confidentiality and without embarrassment or fear of reprisal,” Strom said. “So while even one sexual assault is one too many, we do not automatically view an increase in reported cases as a negative.”
Federal studies show that below 5 percent of completed and attempted rapes on college campuses are reported.
Liquor law referrals increased significantly in 2008. While there were 188 on-campus referrals and no arrests in 2007, there were 304 referrals and two arrests in 2008. According to Strom, WUPD has little involvement in many of these violations.
“These numbers show an increase in attention to alcohol use and violations by RAs, the judicial administrator, Greek Life and other professional staff in order to address the issue,” Strom said.
According to Strom, these entities are doing a better job of taking care of many different infractions involving alcohol. Incidents that in previous years went unnoticed are now being addressed in a systematic way.
Strom noted that the data in this year’s statistics come not only from incidents reported directly to WUPD, but also from information provided by persons designated “campus security authorities.”
The campus security authorities include graduate and undergraduate deans; Residential Life and Campus Life staff; and program directors, faculty advisors, human resources personnel and coaches. All of these campus security officials are responsible for reporting specified crimes and offenses that are revealed to them by any member of the University community or by any campus visitor.
Despite the increase in crime, students say they generally feel safe on campus. Off campus, however, there are more concerns.
“On campus, you’re in the Wash. U. bubble,” sophomore Amber Graham said. “You don’t come across strangers late at night. Being from St. Louis, I know that some parts of St. Louis aren’t safe to be near at night, including places around the Loop. I don’t think it’s a good idea to go off campus at night.”
Other students say they feel unsafe on campus at night.
“I feel a little bit less safe when I return from the library at 2 in the morning, but for the most part I feel very safe around campus,” freshman Daniel Myerson said.
Strom said he is optimistic about safety on campus, and cited some of the improvements that WUPD and the University have made.
“The University has made a significant commitment to safety and security with full-time police department, CCTV, card-access system, good lighting, use of crime prevention through environmental design in the building of facilities, good, safe transit, etcetera,” Strom said. “These have helped in both prevention and apprehension.”