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Drugs, alcohol play significant role in campus area crime

Becky Mabry, Administration Editor
(217) 244-1072; mabry@illinois.edu

7/11/
2000

 

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Students were a little safer on the University of Illinois campus during the 1999-2000 school year, according to crime statistics, although records continue to show that the use of alcohol and drugs plays a significant role in the crimes committed.

UI Police Chief Oliver J. Clark said he's not surprised by the numbers that show the prominent use of alcohol and drugs among those who have been involved in fights -- aggravated assaults and batteries -- and criminal sexual assaults, either by the assailants or victims.

The alcohol- and drug-use information included in the crime report shows that 39 of 78 victims of aggravated assaults and batteries had been drinking or using drugs. And in criminal sexual assaults, seven out of 11 victims had been using drugs or alcohol, according to the statistics, while six out of the 11 suspects were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The UI crime report includes incidents that occurred in an area that extends from University Avenue to Windsor Road, and from Neil Street to Lincoln Avenue.

The numbers paint a portrait that shows that the most frequent victims of aggravated assaults and batteries in the campus area are male students, ages 18 to 20, who are out between 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Sgt. Roy Acree, who works the late-night shift for the UI police, said a common scenario is for a group of men walking home from the bars to feel a little braver and more antagonistic than they would if they were sober.

"I'd say 90 percent of what we deal with after midnight and until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning is alcohol- or drug-related," Acree said. "That ranges from DUI's to medicals, where we have people who are lying out on the Quad or sidewalk, sick and throwing up. Some are so intoxicated they have to be sent to the hospital. And people walking home from the bars commit most of the criminal damage that occurs and do things they normally wouldn't do if they hadn't been drinking. They'll just tear things up, trying to impress their friends.

"Bumping into someone, calling somebody a name, a racial slur ? anything like that can start a fight. When they have alcohol in their systems, they think they're a lot tougher than what they are," Acree said.

When UI officers encounter students who are ill or incapacitated from drugs or alcohol they refer them to the UI's Alcohol and Other Drug Office (AODO). Nearly 300 students were referred to the AODO from the start of school last fall through May 1, according to Ilene Harned, coordinator of the office.

Of the 298 students referred, 69 were deemed in need of medical attention and taken to local hospitals. The remaining 229 students were referred to the AODO for counseling because of excessive consumption, or such matters as drinking in their rooms or drinking as minors.

Professionals at the AODO can help the students evaluate their level of risk from excessive drinking or drug use. And the students can get further counseling or referrals if needed, UI Police Lt. Jeffrey Christensen said.

"The intent of the Alcohol and Other Drug Office is to protect the health, safety and academic success of all UI students," Christensen said.

Aggravated assaults and batteries continue to be the most prevalent person-to-person crime in the campus area. But the number of incidents decreased from 106 in 1998-99 to 78 during the 1999-2000 school year, according to the statistics. When fights occur, about half the time the victims are acquainted with their attackers, according to the statistics.

"I certainly like to see the number of aggravated assaults and batteries take such a tremendous dip, but we have to be cautious and not let our guard down," said UI Police Capt. Krystal Fitzpatrick. "We need to continue to educate students here that the potential for harm is out there, and that they should follow good safety guidelines."

Robberies dropped from 47 to 30; and reports of criminal sexual assaults dropped slightly, from 16 to 11. But Fitzpatrick said the statistics of reported criminal sexual assaults are known to be much lower than the actual crimes committed because many victims do not report those incidents.

Statistics show that of the 11 crimes reported, eight were between acquaintances and only three occurred between strangers. Both female and male victims have reported being assaulted.

Burglary statistics show that 34 burglaries were committed in businesses and offices in the area considered UI property, exceeding the number of burglaries in businesses and offices in Champaign (29) and Urbana (24). As for residential burglaries, only 11 of those occurred within the UI boundaries, compared with 94 in Champaign and 21 in Urbana.

Fitzpatrick explained that the area between University Avenue and Gregory Drive and between Neil Street and Fourth Street had the most burglary incidents, including burglaries in business and offices, residential burglaries and burglaries from motor vehicles, and that's likely because the area is densely populated with fraternities, sororities and apartment houses.

Fitzpatrick said the statistics emphasize the need to remind students living in that area that they need to make sure they lock their doors when they leave, and that they don't leave items of value in their cars that invite thefts.

"Oftentimes burglaries can have a devastating effect on an individual, not only because personal items were taken, but because somebody has been in their house or car and violated their sense of security," she said.