Although by the end of the year 2002, campus crime reached its lowest point in the last 10 years, in just the first three months of 2003, there have already been nearly half as many crimes as those reported for the whole of 2002.
“2002 was a spectacular year,” Henry Christensen, director of Public Safety, said. “For the 30 years that I have worked here I have never seen a year with fewer reported crimes, but we cannot expect the same for 2003.”
According to the 2002 Annual Uniform Crime Report provided by the Coral Gables Police Department, there were 268 total crimes reported for UM that year. So far there are 131 cases for 2003.
But Christensen explained that, while the number of criminal incidents reported to date do suggest a slight increase in crime from last year, these first three months are not very good indicators for what the total crime might be at the end of the year.
“There are not the same number of crimes every month,” Christensen said. “You also have to keep in mind that during summer and winter breaks there are less students on campus and less crimes reported.”
Nonetheless, while there were only two motor vehicle thefts reported in 2002, by the end of March more than four vehicles had been stolen from campus grounds. Two of these were stolen from Walsh Avenue, and three of the four thefts were reported between 2 and 4 p.m.
From 2001 to 2002, however, auto theft decreased from a total of 22 to only two, the lowest number since 1995, when, according to Christensen, around 92 cars were stolen.
“In 1995, the University of Miami was a target area for auto theft,” he said. “Of course, you have to keep in mind that in 1995, all of Florida led the country in auto theft.”
Not including auto theft, over 57 percent of all campus crime reported for the year 2003 is related to theft. Overall, there were 19 burglaries and 57 thefts between January and the end of March.
“Theft is our greatest problem on campus,” Christensen said, adding that last year there was a big problem with bicycle theft.
According to the Coral Gables Police Department, a total of 72 bicycles were stolen last year. So far eight bicycles have been stolen for 2003.
“Currently it’s mostly unattended property that’s stolen,” Christensen said, adding that the most common items stolen are laptops, books and book bags. “These are what we call crimes of opportunity.”
So far this year as well, there have been 17 reports for criminal mischief, eight for battery, seven for harassment and one for stalking.
In order to keep campus crime low, Christensen said that Public Safety has deployed police and security officers at key areas to reduce the opportunity for someone to commit a crime and go undetected. In order to reduce the number of bicycle thefts, they have put together a continuous improvement team that provides constant surveillance to highly targeted areas.
Christensen said that to reduce auto thefts, Public Safety has studied data over the past years to determine the “hot spots” on campus and provide increased security to those areas.
Although Christensen was unwilling to reveal the location of some of these “hot spots,” he did say that all of the big parking lots on campus are highly targeted areas and made specific mention to the lot by the School of Communication and the Pearson Residential College area.
According to Public Safety’s daily crime log, only three of the 131 cases reported for this year have resulted in arrests.
“In most of the car thefts, the cars are returned to the owners, maybe not in one piece, but the cars are found,” he said.
Andrea Alegria can be contacted at email@example.com.