BYU’s crime rate sets it apart from other universities

“Aug. 28 — A suspicious person was reported to be lurking in the shadows at 67th and Wymount around midnight. It was a lost parent of a tenant.”

“Oct. 15 — A fight was reported at Wyview Park. The caller reported four loud voices near the volleyball courts. Officers arrived and found a group of students playing a game of acting out adverbs. The adverb the individuals heard being acted out was ‘aggressively.'”

“March 23 — A teaching assistant at the Talmage Building reported the Oreo cookies on her office desk were missing. She told the officer the door is always locked except for janitors. There were four cookies, worth 50 cents.”

The amusing reports above are just a sample from BYU’s popular Police Beat, found in every Tuesday edition of The Universe. The crimes, for the most part, range from mysterious figures on campus to bike thefts.

Often times, campuses’ common crimes revolve around alcohol and drugs — public intoxication, driving under the influence, minor in possession — but because of BYU’s value-based Honor Code, many of those crimes are avoided.

Carri Jenkins, in University Communications, attributed much of the lack of crime to the Honor Code’s foundation.

“When students adhere to the Honor Code, not only does it keep them from committing a crime, but with the crime there’s also personal safety issues,” Jenkins said. “When you’re involved in crime or illegal activity or illegal drug use … there are severe implications for students in general and their own safety that (BYU) students don’t experience because they’re upholding the Honor Code.”

Lt. Arnold Lemmon, head of security in BYU’s Police Department, said the biggest difference between BYU and other universities is the Honor Code’s no alcohol, no drug use policy.

“Alcohol and drugs are just killing other universities,” Lemmon said. “We make very, very few arrests on drugs. Other university police departments don’t believe me — they do hundreds of arrests, and we do maybe a dozen.”

Lemmon explained other than the minimal arrests for drug and alcohol infractions, BYU has the same type of crime as any municipality, just not the volume.

Bicycle Craze

According to Lemmon, the most common violation among BYU students is theft.

“Bicycles, personal property, university property … it’s cyclical,” Lemmon said. “In other words, look at somebody who gets really into stealing bikes and selling them: we lose a dozen bikes, then we catch them and then it drops off.”

Catherine Smith, a senior from Columbus, Ohio, was a victim of bike theft, but her story had a happy ending.

Smith said the safeness of BYU’s campus, and the ragged appearance of her bike, gave her good reason to not worry about her bike’s security, right up until her bike disappeared.

“My fiance rode my bike up to campus, put it on the bike rack and then he came back to get it and it was gone,” Smith said. “I hadn’t registered it at BYU, so I just thought it was lost.”

A few months after her bike was stolen, Smith spied a random male riding her bike to campus.

“I parked my car and went up to look at all the bike racks on campus,” Smith said. “I found it locked to one of the bike racks, so I stayed there and called the police. At first they asked what evidence I had, and I had some pictures from my mission. So they put a note on the lock saying to call the police when whoever had the bike returned. They also put a police lock on the bike.”

Eventually the bike thief called, and after a few weeks of investigation, Smith’s bike was returned to her.

Smith’s story is a unique one. Three to four bikes are stolen a day, and many never return to their owners.

Lemmon credits the trend of bike thefts to two things: “One, we’re getting greener. People are riding their bikes more, so we’re getting more bikes. Two, the economy is bad and people need money. Some do it to support a drug habit. Drugs drive a lot of theft in the United States.”

An Act of Safety

The publication of universities’ crime rates is one brought about not by choice.

The mandatory disclosure of college crimes came about because of the Clery Act. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires all colleges and universities across the U.S. to make all reported crimes public, and provide an up-to-date table with crime statistics for the previous three years.

BYU’s Police Department provides crime summaries from 2008 to 2010.

BYU isn’t the only one keeping a running tally of its crimes; the FBI takes into account all college and university crimes, and then divides the schools state-by-state. BYU’s crime numbers in 2009 are up for comparison along with the College of Eastern Utah, Southern Utah University, the University of Utah, Utah State University, Utah Valley University and Weber State University.

According to the FBI’s “Offenses Known to Law Enforcement” 2009 table, though BYU’s enrollment is just over 6,000 more than the University of Utah’s, the Utes take the cake in crime report statistics: U of U’s 604 property crimes to BYU’s 283; their 540 larceny-thefts compared to the Cougars’ 270; and two forcible rapes to BYU’s zero.

Location, Location, Location

Compared to campuses like Benedict College in South Carolina and Savannah State University, which were awarded first and second place, respectively, in 2011’s “The 14 Most Dangerous Colleges in America,” BYU is a breath of fresh air.

Many colleges with staggering crime rates attribute the rates to their location. While BYU is located in Provo with a population of 112,488 (according to the 2010 census), the University of Utah finds home among Salt Lake City’s 186,440. Taking into account the downtown area and high volume of tourists, it seems more justifiable that the U of U has a larger amount of crime.

In a 2010 comparison of BYU crime to the University of Utah, University of Las Vegas, Colorado State University, University of Nebraska, University of Arizona, University of Colorado, University of Georgia and San Diego State University, BYU was the lowest or tied for the lowest in the following crimes: violent crime (2), murder/manslaughter (0), rape (0), robbery (0), aggravated assault (2) and motor vehicle theft (1).

[media-credit name=”Courtesy Photo BYU Police Department” align=”alignright” width=”541″][/media-credit]
Crime statistics compared between BYU, University of Utah, UNLV, University of Nebraska, University of Arizona, University of Colorado, University of Georgia and San Diego State University.

The surprising factor came from UNLV. Despite the campus being located a few blocks away from the Vegas Strip, the school was lowest in property crime (249) and theft (181).

Compared to other campuses located near a large city, though, UNLV is an anomaly.

Fighting Complacency

Smith represents many BYU students’ mindsets when she didn’t feel the need to lock up her bike.

“Personally, I feel (BYU) is a super-safe campus, which is probably the reason why I didn’t lock my bike up,” Smith said. “My husband left his bike (on campus) over the weekend, and he came back and his bike had been taken. Still, even after his bike had been stolen and the lock had been cut and everything, I still thought it was a safe enough place that I didn’t even bring a lock to campus with my bike.”

The false sense of security that has permeated Smith’s mind is a common mentality.

“We really caution students not to have (a false sense of security),” Jenkins said. “Because you’re at BYU or you’re in Utah Valley … you cannot put your head in the sand. And looking at the crime rate, we still have statistics out there, it’s not that they don’t exist. So you do need to be prudent and careful and wise.”

Though the BYU Police Department doesn’t want the crime rate to increase in order to build safe behavior among students, Lemmon explained it is important students are made aware of the potential risk.

“Provo, overall, is a very safe city; BYU, overall, is a very safe campus community,” Lemmon said. “If you get a book stolen and it’s important to you, then it’s important to us. What we really fight here is complacency. A lot of students who come here have this false sense of security. So what we try to do is make students aware that they have to protect their property here; they’ve got to protect their person here. And that’s an on-going process.”

 


 

 

 

Alex Hoeft

Alex Hoeft is a print journalism major, minoring in both editing and computers and the humanities. Currently a web editor for The Universe, she one day hopes to work in the sports media industry.

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