Fact Check: Crime rates steady with campus growth

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The Houstonian’s fact check series explores issues of contention around campus. Campus crime rates take the spotlight in the second installment.

Note: All numbers were recorded from each university’s annual crime report logs from 2016. Crime statistics listed are violent crimes only and exclude liquor and drug offenses.

Sam Houston State University’s 2016 Annual Security & Fire Report was released on Oct. 1 in which the University Police Department collected, compiled, and published required information regarding campus crime statistics, policies, and services.

This report is required by all universities under the Clery Act of 1990. This document is produced each year and notification of its availability is publicized on or before Oct. 1 through both email and the university website.

“Page 5 of the report has the statistics for our 2016 annual security report that includes 2014-2016 statistics,” David Yebra Director of Emergency Management at SHSU said. “Based on previous years we are roughly at the same level or a little lower at this point in time. It depends on category of reported crime.”

The newly released Campus Crime Statistics log breaks down individual crime by years. Of on-campus criminal offenses in 2014, there was one count of rape reported, one count of fondling, one aggravated assault, seven burglaries and two counts of motor vehicle theft, resulting in a total of 12 on-campus criminal offenses. In 2015, there were nine rapes reported, four burglaries and two motor vehicle thefts on-campus, resulting in 15 on-campus criminal offenses. For the last calendar year, 2016, seven counts of rape were reported, two robberies, one aggravated assault, three burglaries, and four motor vehicle thefts reported on-campus, resulting in a total of 17 criminal offenses on-campus.

The number of crimes reported has seemed to have gone up in previous years, but this could be related to the increase of student enrollment of over 1,000 students since 2014. The numbers have increased, but the amount of criminal offenses per capita has decreased. In 2016, SHSU had 19,573 students enrolled, meaning that roughly one in every 1,151 students reported a criminal offense on campus Per capita, that’s 0.86 criminal offenses per 1,000 students.

Sam Houston State University recently came in at Number 21 in the Top 25 Safest College Campuses list from RentCollegePads.com’s Ali Bartmer, who utilized the U.S. Department of Education’s Campus and Security Database in an analysis for that website. The website used the data to compile a list and create a “Crime Index”, which is derived from an Institution’s size relative to the number of criminal offenses on campus to determine the relative safety. The numbers range specifically from 2011 to 2015.

According to RentCollegePads.com, there are approx. 12 crimes committed on SHSU campus yearly, on average. Other Texas State University System colleges in our area were not named on the list, such as Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas State University in San Marcos or Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches.

GRAPHnewsIn 2016, Texas State University (TXST) had 169 criminal offenses committed on campus, including six rapes, 25 burglaries, nine motor vehicle thefts, 110 larceny thefts, 18 assaults and one arsonist. TXST had a total of 37,979 students in fall 2016, which means one in 225 students reported an on-campus criminal offense Per capita, that’s 4.45 criminal offenses per 1,000 students.

Lamar University had 22 criminal offenses reported in 2016, including four rapes, three burglaries, one motor vehicle thefts, four counts of dating violence and 10 stalking crimes. In 2016, LU had a total of 14,056 student, meaning that one in every 638 students reported a criminal offense on-campus Per capita, that’s 1.6 criminal offenses per 1,000 students.

The University Police Department maintains a strong presence on the SHSU campus and provides police services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (including holidays). Additionally, the university police department provides a number of services which consist of escorting services, vehicle jump starts and crime prevention/awareness programs.

“SHSU remains a safe campus for several reasons,” Yebra said. “Primarily, our campus community remains engaged and actively involved in the day-to-day activities. With this being said, we know our campus community takes an active interest in SHSU and its safety. We rely on our community to report suspicious activities and to keep us informed of incidents.”

SHSU also utilizes the KatSafe Emergency System, which includes emergency notifications via text, email, voice, and social media messaging. SHSU also has a siren and loudspeaker system to inform our community of an emergency. This system is used and tested regularly.

There is also a KatSafe website and app for your phone that informs our campus community about how to prepare for an emergency.  All students, faculty, staff, visitors, family and community have access to this information. The KatSafe website also includes short informative videos about what to do in certain emergency situations.

During Hurricane Harvey, the KatSafe website was accessed 57,409 times according to Public Safety Services.

“We routinely conduct training and information sessions across campus from specific organizational events to promote community wide safety,” Yebra said.

The University Police Department also maintains high visibility on campus. UPD promotes and offers escort services during the evening & night time hours, in which university police officers will meet you and walk with you to where you need to go on campus if you feel unsafe.

“Our staff at Public Safety Services is dedicated and enjoys interacting with the campus and the community every day,” Yebra said.  “Furthermore, we strive to develop internal and external relationships to help further our goals and objectives. Lastly, our collaboration with other law enforcement agencies in Walker County has been tremendous and is beneficial to our campus community.”