Crime stats vs. campus reality

By Katy Nielsen

Despite a decrease in the number of crimes reported to Campus Safety and Security and local police from 2008 to 2009, two recent on-campus incidents remind Columbia students about the realities of living in a large city.  The 2010 Annual Crime Statistics and Fire Safety Report published at the end of September shows an overall decrease in reported crimes on campus.

Campus Safety and Security has increased its presence in the South Loop this year in an effort to decrease student-involved incidents, said Bob Koverman, associate vice president of Safety and Security. Officers now have Segways and a patrol car.

“I think our department has done at lot to become more visible in the community,” Koverman said. “We’ve done a lot to educate the community on being safe and secure.”

Despite the increased security, two crimes occurred on campus recently. A sexual assault took place inside the University Center, 525 S. State St., on Sept. 28. The other crime was a robbery that occurred on Sept. 29 outside of a former residence building at 2 E. 8th St.

There are more than 80 professionally trained security officers at Columbia, according to the annual report. However, a non-Columbia owned security group has a separate contract with The University Center and 2 E. 8th St. The property management group at the University Center declined to comment about the incident.

“The University Center has the tightest security,” said Kelli Collins, associate director of Residence Life. “At any point in time there are two, sometimes four security guards at the desk.”

Despite the security, a sexual assault took place in the University Center.  According to the police report, a male offender entered a female student’s room through an unlocked door.

Security cameras took a picture of the offender, and his image has been posted on the Web.

“What bothers me is that an incident took place in any building,” Koverman said.

The second incident, a robbery, occurred at Harrison and State streets outside of the building at 2 E. 8th St. Nicholas Assardo, freshman film and video major, was attacked, robbed and beaten with a bat for nearly four minutes before security came to his assistance.

“When you’re out at night, never be alone,” Assardo said. “Always have two or more people with you. Literally, the second I was alone, that’s when I got hit.”

The school is not considering adding an escort service to walk students home or pick them up late at night, Koverman said. When Campus Safety tried to implement a shuttle service three years ago, students did not take advantage of it.

According to the report, in 2008 there were four reported forcible burglaries on all property immediately adjacent to and accessible from the campus, and in 2009, there were eight.

The reason why this particular statistic increased is difficult to say, Koverman said. Most of the statistics in the report showed decreases from 2008 to 2009.

According to the annual report, non-forcible burglaries on Columbia-owned property decreased from 22 in 2008 to 19 in 2009. In student residences there were 10 non-forcible burglaries in 2008, compared to nine reported in 2009.

Liquor law violations saw the largest decrease: 83 fewer instances from 2008 to 2009. There were 187 reported drug law violations.

“You can attribute that [decrease] to our alcohol and drug possession policies,” Koverman said. “I think our residents understand the importance of being in compliance with our alcohol and drug policies.”

Another decreased statistic was the number of motor vehicle thefts reported. In 2008, there were 35 reported car thefts on all public property immediately accessible from campus. In 2009, that number decreased by 50 percent to 18 reported car thefts.

Several crime statistics increased including the number of reported robberies on public property around campus. In 2008, there were 27 reported, compared to 33 robberies reported to local police in 2009.

“We’ve tried to be more visible,” Koverman said. “We’ve increased the hours of operation of our Segways because they now have lights on them. It’s about visibility.”