The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released its 2007 Annual Uniform Crime Report on April 4, showing an overall decline in crime across the state and, more notably, at the state university level.
The report calculates total crime indexes by counting crimes such as larceny, burglary, rape, aggravated assault and others in a given area. The crime index – or number of crimes – at USF declined from 502 to 440 in 2007, a trend noticed at many state universities.
Overall, crime at USF has decreased 12 percent from 2006 and the University had the largest decline among all state universities. Bruce Benson, assistant vice president of public safety, attributed the University’s significant drop in crime to a more prominent police force.
“University Police (UP) has made special efforts to become more visible throughout campus, including more traffic stops. We have also started to fill the vacancies in UP, which certainly help in reducing crime,” Benson said.
UP spokeswoman Lt. Meg Ross said the decrease in crime on campus isn’t attributed to any new initiatives made by the department.
“Although we are happy with the reduction in crime, we cannot take credit for it. We are simply following a trend within the area and state,” Ross said.
While larceny crimes on campus dropped from 335 to 273 in 2007, Ross said it is the most frequent type of theft and most reported on campus.
“Students come to campus with bicycles, books and iPods. All of these things are expensive, so students report them. Although thefts have decreased, they are still a big problem, but they come and go in cycles,” she said.
Brian Clark, a senior majoring in interdisciplinary natural sciences, said he feels safer around campus.
“I feel safer because 12 percent is a large decrease for such a small amount of time. I also feel safer due to the constant presence of the security guards patrolling campus,” Clark said.
Tony Dieppa, a Magnolia Apartments resident, said the decrease in crime doesn’t make him feel any safer because, he said, numbers are just numbers.
“A 12 percent decline in crime will not make me feel any safer when I am finding my own bicycle vandalized along with several others in Magnolia Complex, despite the number of ‘officers’ patrolling the area,” he said. “I’ll feel safer when I walk around campus seeing more real cops than educated 911 callers patrolling the streets.”
Capt. Bob Staehle, UP operations commander, said crime has leveled off in recent years because of the creation of the North Tampa Association, a local partnership with various businesses and police departments, aimed at fighting crime.
“There was a period of time when there was a large increase in burglaries, vehicle and bicycle thefts on and around campus. Once these offenders were apprehended, we saw crime rates decrease on and off campus,” said Staehle.
Staehle said a taskforce is also in place to identify arrested criminals on campus or surrounding areas who may already be on probation. The strategy of the taskforce is to determine if someone being arrested is on probation. If the suspect turns out to have violated his or her probation, he or she is sent back to jail.
“So because we are checking up on these known criminals who are violating their probation, and who also happen to be committing crimes on campus, we have seen a drop in crime from this also,” Staehle said.