Safety report reveals trends in bike theft, assault, arson

Oct. 25, 2012, 11:47 p.m.

Despite a gradual decrease in the number of reported thefts, bicycle thefts remain the most common crime on campus, according to the 2012 Stanford University Safety, Security and Fire Report. The number of reported sexual assaults declined from 21 in 2010 to 12 in 2011, the same number as in 2009. Stanford University Department of Public Safety (SUDPS) Chief Laura Wilson described the campus as “a safe place to live and work.”

Sexual assault

Safety report reveals trends in bike theft, assault, arson
(MEHMET INONU/The Stanford Daily)

SUDPS did not offer an explanation for the reported drop in sexual assaults. According to Assistant Dean of Student Life Angela Exson and Wilson, sexual assault often goes unreported.

“It is my belief that the number of reported assaults is lower than the actual number of assaults that take place on campus,” Wilson wrote in an email to The Daily. “Sexual assault has traditionally been an under-reported crime according to national surveys.”

According to the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey, 54 percent of sexual assaults between 2006 and 2010 went unreported.

“We think there are more cases out there, they’re just not reported to us,” SUDPS Public Information Officer Bill Larson said.

SUDPS is taking steps to increase the frequency at which sexual assault is reported, particularly through outreach events designed to develop trust between the police and the larger community.

“People are more apt to report crimes such as sexual assault or domestic violence to the police when they have a personal relationship with an officer,” Wilson said.

SUDPS officers spend time getting to know students through programs such as LAWGEN 209Q: Community Police Academy, a one-unit course in which students practice law enforcement skills like evidence collection, self-defense tactics, field sobriety testing and even high-speed driving. Between 16 and 28 faculty members and students have enrolled in the course every year for the past four years.

According to Exson, who is also the director of the Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Office (SARA), around 84 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses know the perpetrator, which can decrease the likelihood that a victim will report the event. Exson also linked alcohol education and sexual assault prevention.

“Simultaneous prevention efforts are necessary to address alcohol and sexual assault as separate but co-related issues that are of great concern on college campuses,” Exson wrote in an email to The Daily.

According to Larson, individuals should not mistake the connection between alcohol and sexual assault for a causal relationship.

“We don’t want people to think alcohol is the reason people commit sexual assault,” Larson said. “It may contribute to it, but the perpetrator is responsible for their actions.”

Arson anomaly

There were five reported cases of arson last year, compared to only one in 2009 and another in 2010. SUDPS officials Wilson and Larson do not believe that the arsons were connected.

Bike theft

According to the report, the number of documented bicycle thefts has also been on the decline, falling from 375 in 2009 to 326 in 2010 and 318 in 2011. Wilson attributed it to “random fluctuation.”

To encourage students to lock their bikes, SUDPS is working with the Planning and Architecture Office and Parking and Transportation Services to identify areas of campus where more bike racks are needed.

According to Larson, the number of reported bike thefts is also lower than the actual number of bike thefts. SUDPS impounds many unclaimed stolen or lost bikes.

“Students may think it’s a hassle to report a bike theft, but we may have the bike impounded here and be able to return it,” Larson said.

Bike registration can be an effective deterrent to bike thefts, explained Larson. Bike registration, required by the August 2011 Stanford Traffic and Parking Code, allows SUDPS to look up the owner of a bike in a database if the bike is found or confiscated from a thief.

Campus safety

No reported cases of murder, negligent manslaughter or nonforcible sexual offenses have occurred in the past three years. No reported cases of stalking occurred in 2010 and 2011. Burglary of vehicles and structures, defined as unlawful entry with intent to commit a felony of theft, has decreased in the past year—28 incidents of vehicle burglary were reported in 2011 as compared to 81 in 2010, 101 incidents of structure burglary were reported in 2011 as compared to 180 in 2010.

Although students report feeling safe on campus, some have concerns regarding all-campus parties and bike-related crimes.

“I would not feel comfortable going to a party alone without anyone I trust,” Minymoh Anelone ’16 said.

Students interviewed for this article expressed concerns about campus bike traffic and bollards.

“I do think they should more heavily police the traffic circles, because people go in the wrong direction all the time and it’s terrifying,” Anelone said.

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