Campus crime up 16 percent during 2003, annual study says

    An annual report of crimes at UC campuses showed total crime at UCSD increased 16 percent in 2003, with the number of bike thefts more than doubling. The most serious violent crimes, including robbery and aggravated assault, also posted a 75-percent gain.

    “I think a lot of [the increase] can be attributed to the fact that the campus is growing,” said Kristen McCollough, a crime prevention officer with the UCSD Police Department. “We’ve got more people, so we’ve got more opportunities for this to happen.”

    The statistics, cataloging on-campus crime during 2003, measure only seven offenses, which are known together as the FBI crime index and are used as a gauge that models changes in overall volume and rates of illegal misconduct.

    Because the rate takes so few crimes into account — crimes that occur so infrequently at the university — the year-to-year change may be insignificant, said Mary Garcia, the department’s records and communications manager. For example, the jump in violent crimes represents an increase of only three offenses from the year before, she said, hardly enough to represent a meaningful trend.

    “Our numbers aren’t large enough to come to any [significant] conclusion,” Garcia said.

    The number of sexual assaults — an offense not included in the uniform crime index — has also reached its highest levels in five years, according to the report. Police logged six such assaults in 2003, up from one the year before.

    However, very few victims of sex crimes ever make reports to the police, McCollough said, so the increase may not be an indication of a rising frequency of assaults.

    Nancy Wahlig, director of the Student Safety Awareness and Sexual Assault Resource Center on campus, said she did not see an increase in the number of victims seeking counseling for sexual assault in the same time period.

    Instead, media focus on rape allegations against basketball star Kobe Bryant and other high-profile trials have raised awareness of the issue, making it more likely that victims report the crimes, she said.

    “I think that people are learning more about the option of making a police report, of talking with the police,” Wahlig said. “And maybe they’re even realizing more quickly that it was an unwanted sexual activity that they can report.”

    Bike theft led as one of the most frequent offenses on campus, more than doubling from 52 thefts in 2002, according to the report. Of the 122 bikes reported stolen by students, the department only recovered four.

    Officers cleared 57 percent of violent crimes, compared to 9 percent of property crimes.

    In addition, the annual report noted that UCSD matched UC Irvine for the lowest officer-to-population ratio in the UC system. Both campuses had just 0.6 officers for every 1,000 people on campus, compared to 1.3 officers at UC San Francisco, the highest in the system.

    “We, the police department, feel that we need to increase our staff,” McCollough said. “The chief [Orville King] would like to increase our staff, and I think he is doing a wonderful job campaigning for that. But ultimately, it comes down to budget decisions that are out of his hands.”

    Though he agrees that the campus needs more officers, Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Steven W. Relyea said his challenge in recent years has been to spare the police department from cuts in state funding. Had the police budget been reduced like that of other departments at the university, the campus would likely have even fewer officers.

    “As the university has gone through budget cuts, what I’ve done is made sure that the officer positions have been protected,” Relyea said. “I don’t think we can afford to reduce the staffing.”

    Despite the low ratio, the department has done an excellent job keeping crime in check, Relyea said, adding that he will try to find money to hire one or two more officers to the force over the next several years.

    “If you just look at the crime on campus, we’re in a pretty good situation,” he said. “It’s not an ideal situation, but I think we’re OK.”

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