Your Safety: On and off campus
An in-depth look into Public Safety’s annual report
By Rosemary Peters, Editor-in-Chief -- firstname.lastname@example.org
After a late night of studying in the Library or Shiley Hall, many students can't help but wonder if they are safe as they walk alone, in the dark, back to their home or residence hall.
The truth is, although it is natural to worry, UP students are actually quite safe on campus.
Shortly before the semester started, the Department of Public Safety released its Crime and Fire Report for the 2009 calendar year. The report, which gives a statistical breakdown for crimes in 14 categories, is published annually in order for the school to stay compliant with the Student-Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act of 1990, also known as the Clery Act.
The federal law requires all colleges and universities that receive federal funds to compile an annual report that includes crime and fire safety information for specifically defined areas.
ON-CAMPUS & RESIDENCE HALLS
In the on-campus section of the report, five categories showed reported incidents of crime in the 2009 calendar year: residential burglary, non-residential burglary, theft from motor vehicle, liquor law violations and drug abuse violations.
The largest crime statistic for the on-campus section was liquor law violations with disciplinary referrals. Coming in at 89 referrals, the number of alcohol-related referrals has stayed fairly consistent over the last few years, and it is the most common crime reported to Public Safety, according to Harold Burke-Sivers, director of Public Safety.
One statistic that surprised Burke-Sivers was the apparent decrease in sexual offenses.
The forcible sexual offenses category dropped from four reported sex offenses on campus in 2008 to zero in 2009.
"The numbers depend on how many people report the crime. My guess is that the actual offenses are higher," Burke-Sivers said.
In fact, Burke-Sivers' view is substantiated by various studies, including a 2005 U.S. Department of Justice report on sexual assault on the nation's college campuses. According to that report, "sexual assault is widely considered to be the most underreported violent crime in America."
Some UP students are also surprised by a few other on-campus statistics in the 2009 report.
"The numbers surprised me. I thought there would be more under certain categories," junior Ryan McLaughlin said. "There were 89 liquor referrals, but there was only one drug abuse referral."
A second category that saw a decrease in crime was residential burglary. In 2008, 20 residential burglaries were reported on campus. According to Burke-Sivers, 16 of them occurred during a summer camp and did not involve UP students. "Theft-sensitive items" such as iPods were the target of the burglaries, which occurred in residence halls. This number dropped to six residential burglaries in 2009.
According to Burke-Sivers, the 70 percent decrease in residential burglary in 2009 was due to the fact that there were fewer thefts during summer camps in 2009. However, Burke-Sivers revealed that the number will jump again in the 2010 Crime and Fire Report due to more summer camp thefts this past summer.
"We think it might be some of the same people within the groups," Burke-Sivers said.
"We believe the same group may be involved since the thefts occurred during the same time period in both years," he added in an e-mail.
One crime category that saw a significant drop on campus was theft from motor vehicles, with a nearly 91 percent decrease from 2008 to 2009.
In 2008, 11 such crimes were reported, while in 2009, there was only one.
Burke-Sivers suggested several things to deter theft from motor vehicles.
"Don't leave bags in the front seat of your car," Burke-Sivers said. "Keep your windows rolled up and your doors locked."
ADJACENT TO CAMPUS
According to the Campus Security Act of 1990, also known as the Clery Act, campus safety officials are also required to report crimes that occur in the area "adjacent to campus," defined as accessible public property that is within, next to or bordering the campus.
At UP, this includes the public streets and sidewalks that run through The Village and Fields and Schoenfeldt Halls, as well as the stretch of Willamette Boulevard that borders the campus.
The key word is public. For example, if there were a burglary that occurred in a privately-owned home across from the main entrance to the school, the crime wouldn't fall under the category of "adjacent to campus" because it happened on private property.
In 2008, there were four crimes "adjacent to campus" reported to Public Safety: one motor vehicle theft and three thefts from motor vehicles.
In 2009, there was a 75 percent decrease in "adjacent to campus" crime, with one liquor law violation reported.
While the Clery Act does not require Public Safety to report all crimes that occur in the entire University Park Neighborhood (UPN), it does require statistics for University-owned houses, even if they are off campus.
"(We) only report crimes that involve our students that live in University Park Neighborhood," Burke-Sivers said, "ones reported to us by students or that we go out and investigate."
According to Burke-Sivers, the reason the University-owned houses fall under their own subsection ("Univ. Park") in the annual report is due to the fact that they don't fit under any of the other categories defined by the Clery Act.
The crimes in that category that affected UP students, according to Public Safety's 2009 Crime and Fire Report, total three: two thefts from motor vehicles and one liquor law violation.
In contrast to the Crime and Fire Report, Portland Police statistics cover the entire UPN and suggest that students should exercise extra caution with themselves and their belongings the farther they get from campus.
Based on the City of Portland's official neighborhood boundaries, UPN covers the area bordered by Chautauqua Boulevard, Willamette Boulevard, Ida Avenue and Lombard Street.
According to Portland Police, 353 crimes occurred in 2009 in the whole of UPN. Seventy percent were "Part 1" crimes.
"Part 1-index crimes include the most serious crimes lumped together," said Bryan Rookey, an assistant professor of social and behavior sciences who studies crime statistics and mapping.
Portland Police Bureau statistics for 2009 indicate "theft from a vehicle" was the most common crime in University Park, with 87 reported incidents. Larceny was the second most prevalent crime, followed by vehicle theft.
Burke-Sivers blames the slowdown in the economy.
"As the economy goes down, it doesn't surprise me to see these numbers go up," he said.