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Number of reported crimes on U. of I. campus dropped in fall semester

Sharita Forrest, News Editor

Released 1/24/2007

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Crime decreased significantly in all categories, particularly the number of robberies, in the University of Illinois campus reporting district, according to statistics for the fall semester of 2006, the U. of I. Division of Public Safety reported.

The statistics also reflect a revised methodology for reporting the number of aggravated assaults and batteries on campus.

In reviewing past years’ crime statistics that were reported in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Act, U. of I. police noticed a significant difference in the number of aggravated assaults reported for the Urbana campus compared with peer institutions. Other universities report only those crimes involving substantial bodily injury and/or a weapon, whereas Illinois was reporting all incidents, including those that involved only minor injuries to victims, police officers or both.

U. of I. police began reporting aggravated assaults and batteries using the revised criteria effective with its Clery Act reports for 2005, and to standardize its reporting, applied it to the accompanying crime map and data comparison for the period from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2006.

“This methodology aligns the U. of I.’s reporting with that used by our peers and gives a more accurate reflection of the level of crime on our campus compared with similar institutions,” said Krystal Fitzpatrick, interim U. of I. chief of police.

During the reporting period, 14 aggravated assaults and batteries occurred in the campus district.

Of the 14 victims of assaults and batteries, the majority (12) were men attacked by strangers between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Usage of drugs and/or alcohol by the victim and or the suspect was a factor in many of these crimes.

Robberies declined 47 percent, to 17 from 32 during the same period in 2005 and 22 in 2004. The majority of the victims were male students robbed by strangers.

The number of reported criminal sexual assaults declined to seven, from 11 during the same period in 2005. During the fall semester in 2004, eight criminal sexual assaults were reported.

Only one report of peeping toms and public indecency was made during the fall semester 2006, versus eight such incidents during the fall semesters the prior two years.

Consistent with prior years, crimes were concentrated in areas adjacent to the university campus, rather than on U. of I. grounds, particularly in the northwest quadrant, an area roughly bounded by University Avenue on the north, Gregory Drive on the south, and Wright Street on the east and the railroad tracks just east of Neil Street on the west.

“Although we are encouraged by the decline of this past semester’s crime statistics, we must not embrace a false sense of diminishing awareness,” said Jeff Christensen, assistant chief of police. “All of us within the campus community must continue to demonstrate sound crime-prevention practices.

“Taking away the opportunity for a crime to be committed and reporting suspicious behavior are important. The dramatic decline in robberies during the fall semester was the result of increased public awareness following our October Public Safety Bulletin coupled with the outstanding work of our officers and neighboring agencies in identifying and arresting offenders.” The bulletin was e-mailed to the campus, posted on the departmental Web site and received coverage by the news media.

As always, police urge people to exercise good safety practices, particularly drinking responsibly, as drinking too much increases the likelihood of becoming involved in a crime.

Pedestrians are encouraged to walk with other people, to be alert to their surroundings and, if they have cell phones, to keep them out and call 911 if they notice a suspicious person or suspicious activity.

People also are encouraged to take buses or call SafeRides (265-7433) between 5 p.m. and 6:15 a.m.

“It is important to remember that crime trends are just that – trends – and should not be a sign to forgo establishing and maintaining good safety habits,” Fitzpatrick said. “The U. of I. police provide the campus community not only with traditional police services but also are available to give presentations on personal safety. The publication of the crime statistics is intended to keep our community informed as well as warned. But learning how to diminish the chance of becoming a victim is just as important, and we encourage students and faculty and staff members to visit our Web site to find out more about our programs.”

The U. of I. crime report includes incidents that occurred in an area extending from University Avenue on the north to Windsor Road on the south, Race Street on the east and the railroad tracks just east of Neil Street on the west.

The crime statistics for the U. of I. district are reported three times annually and in new-student orientations and campus crime prevention programs.