New crime stats released

| Contributing Reporter

Burglaries fell sharply on campus but almost doubled off-campus between 2008 to 2009, according to new statistics on crime at Washington University.

On-campus burglaries dropped from 30 in 2008 to seven in 2009. While this difference appears drastic, it is in large part due to a single incident, when Hitzeman and Hurd residential halls were burglarized over winter break in 2007 and reports were filed in January 2008.

The statistics also show a significant increase in non-campus property burglaries in 2009. A total of 28 burglaries occurred on non-campus properties that year, with 16 the year before.

Campus crime statistics from across the nation for 2009 were released Oct. 1 and are now available on the U.S. Department of Education website.

The statistics, whose public release is mandated by the Clery Act of 1991, show arrests and criminal offenses at the University over a three-year period.

The statistics include figures for murder, sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, vehicle theft and arson. The report also includes arrests and referrals for drugs, alcohol and weapons violations.

Most of the reported crimes for Washington University were property-related, with a very low incidence of interpersonal crime.

Increases in off-campus crime have contributed to heightened concern about security on campus, especially in comparative ratings with other universities, such as the one recently issued by the online publication The Daily Beast, in which Wash. U. was ranked the nation’s 13th most dangerous campus.

Non-campus property includes the West Campus, North Campus, South Campus, about 165 apartment buildings owned by Quadrangle Housing and the Residential Life (ResLife) apartments, as well as some University-owned commercial establishments.

The Washington University Police Department has expanded security measures in response to the rising concern about campus safety, adding closed-circuit television surveillance to investigate on-campus incidents and monitor unwelcome visitors from the outside.

“I feel like once you leave the Wash. U. campus and step outside its borders, it gets dramatically less controlled and less safe,” sophomore Joanne Li said. “Also the fact that Wash. U.’s campus is an open campus makes me feel like I always have to be on the lookout and just be smart.”

Chief of Police Don Strom warned that the statistics are complex and can be misleading for comparison with other schools. Wash. U. statistics include numerous off-campus properties, but other campuses may not have any such properties to include.

There were no weapons violations reported for any of the three years covered in the statistics. The number of drug- and alcohol-related arrests ranged from one to five; they do not show any significant increase over the three years.

There is, however, an upward trend in the number of referrals for alcohol violations, which rose from less than 200 referrals in 2007 to more than 300 in both of the following two years. In the case of a referral, the incident is reported to the police but handled outside the police department, usually by a mandated reporter such as a residential adviser, residential college director or athletic coach. This increase indicates a tightening of ResLife alcohol policies in recent years.

The number of reported sexual offenses on campus remained low, declining from seven in 2008 to five in 2009. Strom finds this figure to be suspect.

“Five or seven is way too many, but I think it under represents the problem,” Strom said. “That’s what our dialogue needs to be about. I’m glad to see that the University now has a sexual assault [prevention] coordinator who can take that issue head-on.”

Overall, the crime statistics show a positive trend in the direction of a safer campus community over the past three years. Strom also indicated that the figures for 2010 have maintained that trend thus far.

“We feel like we have a pretty safe campus,” Strom said. “I think most people feel that way. But we also talk about that ‘Wash. U. bubble,’ and that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. We live in an urban area, and we’re an open campus. We have to take those steps that make sense to protect our property, to protect ourselves and to use the services that are available.”

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