2021 Student Housing Crime Statistics Report released

The University of Utah released its first housing-specific crime report this week.

Background

This detailed crime data is required by state law passed in 2021, which requires Utah higher education institutions to gather information about all crimes reported to campus and local law enforcement agencies and break the statistics down by housing unit*. The report includes information about the Clery Act’s reportable offenses, which include crimes ranging from property crimes to hate crimes; sex offenses; Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) offenses; and drug, alcohol and weapon offenses.

The Student Housing Crime Statistics Report is separate from the university’s Annual Security & Fire Safety Report (ASR), which is posted in the fall each year and then distributed via email in the fall to the entire campus community, and then again by email in the spring and summer semesters to all new U students and employees. Both reports are available online and include data from 2020. The crime statistics detailed in the housing report also are counted in the ASR.

Trends

Together, the crime reports show a decrease in Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) offenses compared to statistics from 2019. Additionally, fondling cases, aggravated assaults, motor vehicle theft, and drug and alcohol arrests cases also decreased. This is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced the population on campus during the 2020-2021 school year.

U Safety leaders noted that rape cases peaked between 2018 and 2019—from 12 to 20 cases, presumably due to more information and resources available to the victims. During 2020, cases remained steady, with 21 total cases. The housing crime report tracked:

  • Nine rapes in residential buildings operated by the university or university-registered student organizations, including fraternity and sorority houses. During the same time period, law enforcement reported one case of dating violence and three reports of stalking in on-campus or university-registered housing.
  • In off-campus housing (Block 44), two rapes, one case of domestic violence and one case of dating violence, were reported.
  • In University Student Apartments, 8 domestic violence incidents and one case of stalking were reported in 2020.

Those numbers do not include reports made to other offices and service providers outside of law enforcement.

“Any crime is one too many as we strive to make the University of Utah a welcoming and secure place for our students to learn, faculty to teach and staff to work,” said Keith Squires, chief safety officer. “We know that transparency and clear communication are among our most powerful tools to raise awareness about safety on our campus.

“Along with other innovations in our safety operations, we believe University Safety is on the right track—responding with a victim-centric and trauma-informed approach to all crimes on our campus, so survivors feel safe and heard when they report these crimes.”

Context

To put the crime statistics in context, university leaders have compared the data to annual safety reports from peer institutions in the PAC-12 and three mid-size Salt Lake County cities (Draper, Herriman and Murray) with daytime populations similar to that of the university and its auxiliary campuses:

2020 PAC-12 Crime Statistics: Annual Security & Fire Safety Report

Institution Murder Rape Burglary MV Theft Domestic Violence Dating Violence Drug Arrests Weapon Arrests
University of Utah

(Salt Lake City, Utah)

0 21 28 19 18 3 19 4
Arizona State University (Tempe, Arizona) 0 17 20 13 1 7 196 7
Oregon State University (Corvallis, Oregon) 0 8 24 6 4 2 20 2
Stanford University (Stanford, California) 0 15 42 24 8 0 16 6
University of Arizona (Tucson, Arizona) 0 18 29 29 17 1 96 1
University of California, Berkeley 0 25 69 100 37 7 80 11
University of California, Los Angeles 0 35 107 7 15 5 87 14
University of Colorado, Boulder 0 12 16 8 4 7 166 1
University of Oregon

(Eugene, Ore.)

0 5 52 15 1 4 9 1
University of Southern California (Los Angeles, California) 0 27 20 41 2 8 5 4
University of Washington

(Seattle, Wash.)

0 32 203 48 41 32 1 1
Washington State University

(Pullman, Wash.)

0 20 11 0 2 2 14 2

 

2020 City Crime Statistics (Population: 49-56,000)

City Murder Rape Burglary MV Theft Domestic Violence Drug/

Narcotic Offenses

Weapon Violations
Draper, Utah 0 23 140 90 ** 175 23
Herriman, Utah 0 8 59 57 ** 151 14
Murray, Utah 2 28 340 575 ** 534 80

 

If you need to report a crime, call University Police at 801-585-2677, or go to safeu.utah.edu for additional campus resources. Local and national support also is available from the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465) and the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

*The university provides single, group and family housing for undergraduate and graduate students. Housing and Residential Education (HRE) manages facilities in the Fort Douglas Officer’s Circle area, traditional on-campus residence halls and the Block 44 and downtown commons buildings in downtown Salt Lake City. University Student Apartments (USA) manages graduate and family student housing in the Medical Plaza area and USA’s East and West Villages on Sunnyside Ave. (The Block 44 lease expires in May 2022.)

**Not included in Crime in Utah report by city. Source: https://bci.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2021/10/Crime-in-Utah-2020.pdf

 

Safety Survey Results

View the full U Safety survey results here.

In an effort to establish baseline data and measure the impact of the many recent safety infrastructure changes at the University of Utah, the University Safety Department partnered with U research graduate students to gather information on current students, staff and faculty members’ perceptions of safety at the U.

The Survey Analysis Team generated an online survey that opened on Oct. 27, 2021, and closed on Nov. 13, 2021. It was distributed to nearly 50,000 people including a representative sample of nearly 10,000 students and about 40,000 staff and faculty. In total, 2,991 responses were completed for a 6% response rate.

The survey was composed of 24 questions that all aimed to answer three primary research questions:

  1. What are university members’ most important campus safety concerns?
  2. How satisfied are university community members with U Safety?
  3. What does “safety” mean to members of the university community?

U Safety will use this data to help guide community engagement programs and strategies and to measure changes in perceptions of safety over time.

“I want to thank everyone who took the time to provide thoughtful responses to these important survey questions,” said Keith Squires, chief safety officer for the U. “We know we have significant work to do, and these responses will help us prioritize how we will make the University of Utah a place of safety and belonging for all members of our community.”

Results

The majority of respondents to the survey felt that safety at the U was either improving (1,183) or staying the same (1,180). In addition, 72% of those who have interacted with University Police in the past 12 months were either very or somewhat satisfied with the interaction.

“We are encouraged to learn that most of those who have either needed to interact with our police or who have come across them at a campus event have had a positive experience,” said Brian Nicholls, special assistant to the chief safety officer. “However, we are concerned about the number of people who indicated they have been in a situation that warranted contacting the U Safety Department but chose not to. Responses to that question have really helped us identify barriers to contacting University Safety and can help inform how we can ensure everyone feels they can rely on us to help them when they need it.”

Respondents were also asked to consider the safety of the U compared to its surrounding areas. Most consider the U to be safer or equally as safe as surrounding areas.

Survey results indicate the top two safety concerns on campus are sexual assault and burglary/theft. Respondents are the wariest of parking lots and structures and feel particularly unsafe at night.

When asked what would make them feel safer at the U, a significant majority of students, staff and faculty selected “improved security infrastructure,” signaling things such as improved lighting and additional surveillance cameras on campus. The second most common response was “knowledge of safety options."

Recommendations and next steps

Based on the survey responses, the Survey Analysis Team of graduate students developed three recommendations for U Safety:

  1. Communicate clear pathways for accessing resources.
    U Safety is currently in the process of hiring its first Public Relations and Communications Manager. Squires said this elevated communications position will help the department to better educate community members about all the resources they offer and ensure people know how to access them, and build trust so community members feel comfortable engaging those services.
  2. Update infrastructure, particularly to identify and correct gaps in lighting and prioritize pedestrian travel to and from parking.
    U Safety is preparing to launch a new safety app that will include virtual walk home options and other innovative features that Nicholls said is part of their immediate plans to improve the safety infrastructure on campus. In addition, the department will continue to partner with Facilities and to participate in important events such as Walk After Dark. U Safety has also established a Pedestrian Safety Subcommittee of its Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) and will work to improve its communication about existing resources such as SafeRide and Campus Security Escorts.
  1. Attend to unique needs at the U such as locations spread across the Wasatch Front, female students and distributing more targeted surveys.
    Instead of using contract security, Nicholls said they are expanding partnerships between University of Utah Health’s community clinics and U of U Health security to staff clinics throughout the region. They also plan to conduct several listening sessions with various groups on campus such as student residents, the Women’s Resource Center, the centers within Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the One U Thriving Committees and more.

“Receiving this valuable feedback during my first month as chief safety officer sets the tone for the work ahead,” said Squires. “I am looking forward to strengthening campus partnerships and engaging in new ones that will help U Safety fill gaps, build transparency, and earn trust as we work together to create a safer and more welcoming environment.”

View the full U Safety survey results here.

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