Campus crime hits a new low

Bernie Gerst

By: Amanda Carroll, Staff Writer

To campus officials, it’s a point of pride that Towson University is one of the safest universities in Maryland. Recently released statistics from the Towson University Police Department have confirmed that campus crime rates are hitting new lows.

TUPD released its Unified Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics, which track crimes reported on campus. The statistics are broken into two categories: Part 1, which includes violent crimes, burglary, larceny-theft and other crimes. Part 2 encapsulates vandalism, fraud, disorderly conduct and drug abuse.

In 2016, the Part 1 crime rate per capita was 3.49 per 1,000 students. The year before, it was 5.56, showing a 37 percent reduction over the course of a year.

Comparing this over a longer range, the Part 1 rate per 1,000 students was 30.93 in 1995. That means 2016’s rate was an 88.5 percent reduction over a 21-year period.

For comparison, the 2015 UCR data can be used to compare Towson’s crime occurrences to other public colleges in Maryland since the 2016 data for all Maryland public colleges has not been fully compiled yet.

As reported before, TU’s Part 1 crime-per-capita reporting was 5.56 per 1,000 students in 2015. Looking at local schools, The University of Baltimore’s rate was 7.82, the University of Maryland College Park’s rate was 12.07, and Morgan State’s rate was 15.66.

These rates include all crimes reported on campus, which means not all victims were TU faculty, students or staff. Visitors, contractors and others are included in these reports.

According to TUPD Chief Bernie Gerst, TUPD police maintains a close eye on these statistics because, “You cannot manage something that you don’t measure.”

According to Gerst, he and his team review crime data on a weekly basis and compare the data to prior years to review trends and look for patterns.

“There are a lot of factors here on campus that we would like to think are contributing to it because we like to take things from a multifaceted approach,” Gerst said.

This approach includes physical features, including surveillance cameras and blue light phones, educational initiatives such as safety videos, trainings and outreach programs and the TUPD force themselves, which monitor campus 24/7 on foot and by car.

The Public Safety Building opened in 2013 and is specially equipped with features that allow the force to coordinate, communicate and respond to any incidents that arise.

Gerst cites education, such as teaching people not to leave possessions unattended, as one of the greatest steps toward preventing crimes of opportunity such as theft.

Gerst emphasizes that “the whole story isn’t about crime statistics. The whole story is about how safe you feel on campus…. We try not to just deal with crime but we like to try to deal with fear of crime.”

If anyone in the TU community is seeking further information on crime statistics, they can access resources anytime on the TUPD website. In addition to the Public Safety Building, designated community outreach officers have satellite offices in West Village Commons and the University Union.

Gerst pointed out other underutilized resources on campus such as ride-along opportunities for current students to observe a patrol and the police and community relations council, an advisory group of students, faculty and staff.

According to TUPD Colonel Joe Herring, that council has not met this semester after their chair stepped down, but the University is searching for a new chair.

Herring also said students can contact him for an application to schedule a ride along.

Student groups can request educational presentations or opportunities to participate in trainings such as the active shooter training. People can also sign up for text alerts to be informed about announcements from TUPD.

On May 6 and 7, TUPD will continue filming a new campus safety video, and the department is requesting students to act as extras for the short film.

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