Crime On Campus: What UD Is Doing To Protect Its Community’s Property

Emily Biery
Contributing Writer

Article originally posted on March 27th. 

Burglary is one of the highest reported crimes at UD, where the Department of Public Safety works to assist victims and prevent the occurrence of future incidents.

UD senior Scott Chriss returned to his home on Evanston Avenue on a Thursday afternoon in mid-September to find his MacBook Pro, which he had left on his kitchen table before leaving for class, gone. While he would have previously been unconcerned, assuming one of his roommates had moved it, he was fearful it had been taken by an intruder.

A few days prior, an alert was sent out to students and faculty, notifying of recent burglaries on Evanston Avenue. Fortunately, Chriss was not affected. After speaking with his roommates, he was informed that one of his friends had simply moved it to a different location.

“In previous years, we’ve left our doors unlocked during the day without worry,” Chriss said. “Unfortunately, some students learned the hard way the cost of doing so; I was lucky.”

Chriss heard of other break-ins in the area and mentioned the existence of group messages created by block to warn other students of the break-ins.

Despite these burglaries in the beginning of the school year, crime on college campuses in the U.S. is on the decline, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Statistics show roughly 66,000 criminal offenses reported in 2005, which have decreased to nearly half that as of 2017.

Although there have been slight spikes in these numbers, largely in years following 2014, a similar trend exists in Ohio, specifically at UD.

Burglary, however, accounted for around 44 percent of reported criminal offenses in 2017 at UD, representing the highest reported crime on the university’s campus, discounting liquor, drug and weapons violations and arrests.

The pattern is the same at nearby colleges. At the Ohio State University, burglary was the second highest reported criminal offense in 2017, following rape, while at the University of Cincinnati, burglary accounted for 67 percent of on-campus criminal offenses for the year.

According to UD Clery Compliance and Records Administrator Melinda Warthman, it is important to understand the distinction between a theft, robbery and burglary.

Crimes are considered theft if something is taken from an open space or a space where people have been given permission to be. Burglary, on the other hand, occurs when someone who does not have permission to enter an area does so with the intent to commit a felony inside. Robbery occurs when an individual takes something of value from another in a face-to-face interaction, where the perpetrator uses force or the threat of force.

While properly dealing with these issues is a top priority for UD Public Safety, specifically in making students aware to ensure safety and reduce harm, theft is not a crime that requires a disclosure of statistics by the university under the Clery Act, a federal law that requires colleges and universities to communicate campus crime statistics.

“However, if Public Safety notices a trend in theft reports or items that seem particularly attractive to thieves, the department may issue a Flyer Aware message to inform the community and encourage community members to secure their items and look out for others,” Warthman said.

This message is a feature outside of the university’s Emergency Notification System, which is designed to rapidly notify the campus community in the event of an emergency via telephone, SMS message, email and/or mobile app, according to the UD website. The Flyer Aware message was implemented by UD Police Chief Rodney Chatman for instances that don’t rise to the level of a safety advisory.

As for what constitutes a trend in theft, locations, days, times and types of items stolen are considered.

“Our officers have meetings each shift to discuss current events, and things may come up that raise a red flag,’” UD Assistant Police Chief Savalas Kidd said.

In addition to alerting students, after receiving a report, officers on campus search for suspects if the crime happened recently, track down witnesses for more details and collect evidence, such as touch DNA and fingerprints – all types of investigatory techniques that attempt to lead to a suspect’s arrest. Police follow up with those involved in each case, as well, and the Clery Compliance and Records Coordinator works to provide a finalized report that allows victims to file insurance claims.

While break-ins and the loss of more monetarily valuable items occur, such as the motor vehicle thefts that took place in October 2018 and the Evanston Avenue burglaries that took place in September 2018, the most stolen items on campus are bicycles, according to Warthman, who looks over crime reports daily.

However, of the 10 thefts reported in 2019, as of Feb. 18, only one involved a stolen bike. Many involved items stolen from vehicles in the area.

Because some of these thefts tend to be more concentrated in specific areas of campus, some students have not had any experience with the issue.

Josh Killian, a neighborhood fellow on the 300 block of Stonemill Road, has not encountered any issues involving theft during his time as a fellow or resident assistant (RA) in Caldwell Apartments.

However, he does remember there being a problem in Marycrest in 2016, when an individual stole textbooks from students’ rooms to sell for book buyback. A similar issue occurred in the summer of 2018, when $54,000 worth of UD law textbooks were stolen.

Nevertheless, UD is working diligently to improve efforts to ensure community members’ safety.

“Our officers typically have more specialized training than officers in surrounding communities,” Warthman said. “Our investigators are very experienced and have been at UD long enough to really know the area and have great relationships with local jurisdictions, so that they can provide the best safety and support service possible.”

Photo by Christian Cubacub.