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Campus crime rates decreasing
Erik Dodge
Antelope Staff
Michelle Hamaker

Larceny, alcohol most common violations


Larceny and alcohol violations are the most common cause for University of Nebraska at Kearney students to have a brush with the law, but overall campus crime rates have declined in recent years.

“Overall the campus has seen less disciplinary referrals and less campus crime than what we saw a year ago, two years ago or three years ago,” said director of police and parking services Michelle Hamaker.

 

UNK reported 117 alcohol violations in 2009, according the most recent Annual Campus Security Crime Awareness and Fire Report.

 

Alcohol violations accounted for more incidents than all 13 other reported categories combined, but the number reported has decreased from the rates of the previous two years.

 

In 2008, UNK reported 163 alcohol violations, down from 211 in 2007.


With the decrease in violations, UNK has the second highest number of alcohol violations per 1,000 students at nearly 17, compared to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

 

UNL reported the highest rate of alcohol violations at more than 25 incidents per 1,000 students, with 614 total incidents in 2009. UNO reported the lowest rate for the same year at 9 incidents per 1,000 students and 140 total incidents.


The total violations indicate size is one of the key differences between the NU campuses. UNL and UNO enrolled 24,100 students and 15,400 students respectively in 2009, compared to UNK’s 6,750 students. Enrollment is one reason campus police face unique challenges at each university.


UNO is located in the largest city in Nebraska, which has more than 428,000 residents. Despite the high crime rates associated with urban centers, UNO security director Paul Kosel said the Maverick campus is in a low crime area.


“We’re in the central part of Omaha. We have two churches to the North. We have a city park to the south and to the east of us. Finally we have neighborhoods to the west of us. So, we’re not in the middle of a city, and this part of the city of Omaha is pretty well established. There is very little crime in general in this area,” Kosel said. 


UNL is an urban campus in the state capital that enrolls more students than the other two campuses combined. As the largest university, UNL often holds large events that present challenges for campus police, such as football games.


“There are some unique challenges to football. During the game there are a lot of people.

You have some 80,000 people in a very confined space. I have only so much staffing to ensure we make that a safe environment for everyone, which means we have to coordinate with other law enforcement agencies to provide that safe service for the fans that come and attend the game,” said assistant chief of the UNL Police Department Carl Oestmann.



More alcohol violations occur during football games than any other type of crime, according to Oestmann. The 206 alcohol violations reported at football games in 2009 accounted for more than one-third of total alcohol violations for the year, and included 53 during the game against Kansas State University. 


“Most of the contact that we make at a football game, when it comes to any type of issue that might be police related, a large majority of that is due to misuse of alcohol beverages,” he said.

Even though alcohol violations are higher than any other statistic, Oestmann considers theft the biggest threat to UNL students. 


“Our biggest crime is larceny. Those are probably the majority of our crimes on this campus, which in all honesty is actually pretty good because you aren’t seeing a lot of violent crime statistics that have increased nationwide over the last few years,” he said.


Kosel agreed that larceny is the biggest problem at UNO. Larceny is the second most common crime included in annual security reports at each University of Nebraska college.

 

UNK reported 45 larcenies in 2009, UNO reported 90 and UNL reported 295.

 

For each 1,000 students enrolled, UNK records 6.67 larcenies, compared to 5.84 at UNO and more than 12 at UNL.


Larcenies have not increased in the previous three years at UNK. The university reported 45 larcenies in 2008, and 66 in 2007.

 

Students need some education to avoid falling victim to a theft, according to Hamaker.


 “I think the more people are educated, the more they can make better choices for themselves,” she said.


“A lot of thefts on campus are going to be crimes of opportunity— like leaving a resident hall room door open, or leaving a backpack on the library table while going to the restroom. The more you make it easy for someone to steal your stuff, the more likely it is to get taken.”


Police and Parking Services provides tips to avoid theft on the UNK website. 


* Valuables should always be stored in a locked area.


• Whenever a room or car is unoccupied it should be locked. 


• Laptops, bags and other valuables should never be left unattended in public areas.


To decrease campus crime numbers, UNK implemented a new policy to lock all exterior doors to resident halls, according to Hamaker. “We may see some kind of a trend in that, because now not everyone can access the residential halls. You do have to have a key or fob to get into those residential halls, into the living areas.” 


No single change can account for trends in crime statistics, Hamaker said, but policies, the student population, and how officers patrol campus has an effect. Since the policy was put in place, UNK reported fewer larcenies than the previous year, according to unofficial 2010 statistics provided by Hamaker. 


Campus police at UNL and UNO are relying more on cameras to police their campuses. 


“We have an extensive closed-circuit television camera system on this campus.

 

We have over 900 cameras and those have really assisted us as well,” Oestmann said.


 The camera system eases staffing issues and brings a number of other benefits to UNL, according to Oestmann. Cameras help the UNL Police be more proactive during special events and track down criminals that are caught on video.


“If we get a report of a stolen bike, our officers are able to retrieve that footage and take a look at the time frame during which that item was taken and see if we have it captured on a CD. Then we’re able to download it and go out to look for the person responsible,” Oestmann said. 

“It’s helped us in trying to serve our campus community.”



Hamaker said cameras would provide the same benefit to UNK.

 

The campus already has cameras at the entrances and exits of Antelope Hall, Nester North Hall, Nester South Hall and the computer lab in the Nebraskan Student Union.

 

Several academic departments have expressed interest in adding a camera system. Hamaker said she believes the camera system will continue to grow.


“I anticipate that those will expand over the next several years, but it just takes a bit of time making sure we have the right cameras and the right positioning of the cameras to make them worthwhile.”

 

Clery Report Nugget


Clery Act


The Clery Act was originally passed as the “Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990.” Connie and Howard Clery championed the legislation after their daughter Jeanne, a 19-year old university freshman, was raped and murdered in her residence hall room in 1986.

 

Schools who participate in federal student aid programs are required to publish certain crime statistics each year.

 

Search annual security report on UNK’s website to locate the most recent report.

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