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MTSU takes comprehensive approach to fighting crim...

MTSU takes comprehensive approach to fighting crime on campus

The latest MTSU campus crime statistics from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation show noticeable year-over-year drops in some categories and an overall crime rate that remains low.

campus crime report coverThe TBI released the 2012 statistics for the annual report today. MTSU officials attribute campus safety successes to community policing efforts that take a comprehensive approach to crime prevention for a campus community of 27,000-plus people.

For 2012, MTSU reported no homicides, one sexual assault and three robberies, as well as significant drops in thefts, weapon law violations, DUIs and liquor law violations.

“For a campus of roughly 30,000 people, crime remains relatively low,” said Chief Buddy Peaster, director of the MTSU Department of Public Safety.

“Over the last several years, the university has done two important things regarding campus safety: continuously provided support toward programs that help make our campus safer and responded to situations that could show additional resources and programming were needed.”

MTSU’s overall crime rate in 2012 is comparable to other Tennessee Board of Regents campuses, though Peaster again noted that comparisons must account for factors such as the surrounding neighborhoods and the number of dorms on a particular campus.

Here’s a summary of decreases in other crime categories for 2012 with the percent decrease from 2011 in parentheses:

  • Thefts — 186 (down 29 percent)
  • Burglary — 29 (down 12 percent)
  • Vandalism — 81 (down 19 percent)
  • Weapon law violations — 4 (down 56 percent)
  • DUI — 50 (down 43 percent)
  • Liquor law violations — 65 (down 49 percent)

“Theft remains the No. 1 crime,” said campus police Sgt. Broede Stucky, while noting that 2012 saw a significant year-over-year drop in such crimes.

And while the number of reported assaults showed a spike overall — from 52 in 2011 to 80 in 2012 — most of the jump came in the assault subcategory of “intimidation” — from six reported in 2011 to 35 in 2012. Campus police encourages people to report threatening situations before they escalate.

Aggravated and simple assaults remained basically flat year-over-year, the report shows.

Chief Buddy Peaster

Chief Buddy Peaster

In assessing the year-over-year changes in drug violations and DUIs, the chief noted that his department partnered with the Governor’s Highway Safety Office to do checkpoints and targeted patrols to crack down on driving under the influence and underage drinking on campus.

DUI offenses were down from 88 in 2011 to 50 in 2012; drunkenness offenses were up from 10 in 2011 to 23 last year; and drug/narcotics violations were up from 43 in 2011 to 62 in 2012.

Peaster cautioned against reading too much into a single year of crime statistics, stressing that his office looks at trends over time to gauge whether prevention and enforcement efforts are effective in keeping students, faculty and staff safer.

Reducing crime often involves a combination of enforcement activities and changes in student behavior as well as preventive actions, such as a Campus Planning project that improved lighting across campus, increased police foot patrols after the new Student Union opened last year and public awareness campaigns through Student Health Services and MTSU Housing and Residential Life.

“Housing talks with students about crime prevention and campus safety being a shared responsibility,” said Andrew Bickers, Housing and Residential Life director.

Lisa Schrader

Lisa Schrader

Housing security measures include around-the-clock front desk coverage in dormitories, card-swipe access systems and locked entry doors.

“We ask students to keep their windows and doors locked, not to prop open locked access doors and to report suspicious behavior to housing staff and MTSU police,” Bickers said, adding that his department collaborates with campus police on an Adopt-A-Cop program that assigns a specific officer to each residence hall.

Lisa Schrader, director of the MTSU Health Promotion Office for Student Health Services, said Health Services and Health Promotion educate students on risk reduction techniques for substance use and violence prevention.

“We utilize social norms campaigns to demonstrate that, unlike common stereotypes, the majority of our students make responsible decisions most of the time when it comes to risky behaviors,” Schrader said. “We partner with other campus offices to offer free, late-night activities for students to give them a safe environment to interact with other students.

“We also implement wellness programs in first-year seminars and other courses around topics such as alcohol, drugs and sexual responsibility, which provide health information to students as well as information on the campus resources available to them on these issues.”

The MTSU Department of Public Safety currently employs 35 full-time police officers, five full-time dispatchers and about 20 part-time student workers. It operates around the clock to protect the 500-plus-acre university campus.

To view the full TBI Crime on Campus Report, visit http://tinyurl.com/TBICampusCrime2012 or click on the report cover above. The MTSU statistics are featured on pages 67 and 152 of the 241-page report.

— Jimmy Hart (jimmy.hart@mtsu.edu)


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