published Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Burglaries rise at University of South

Carrie Ryan, a student at Sewanee University, rides her bike to class past Dupont Library in this file photo.
Carrie Ryan, a student at Sewanee University, rides her bike to class past Dupont Library in this file photo.
Photo by Dan Henry.
Crime on Campus 2011 report
Crime on Campus 2011 report

The number of thefts are down at the University of the South at Sewanee, Tenn., but burglaries are up.

In 2011, there were 35 burglaries reported, up from 13 the previous year, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Crime on Campus report. But thefts have been decreasing consistently at the school since 2009 -- from 84 to 38 reported last year. Theft includes such acts as shoplifting and purse-snatching and while burglaries involve breaking and entering.

Sewanee officials said the numbers don't tell the whole story.

"In addition to the university campus itself, the town of Sewanee and the homes of Sewanee residents are all on the university's landholdings and are protected by the Sewanee Police Department," Laurie Saxton, the school's spokeswoman, wrote in an email. "The report therefore captures all the police calls for thefts anywhere on the university's 13,000 acres -- as well as some in neighboring communities on the Cumberland Plateau when the [the school's police department] responds to calls in those communities."

Statewide, crime on college campuses increased about 4 percent from 2010 to 2011, the report showed. Previously, the number of incidents reported had gone down every year between 2004 and 2008, and there was only a slight increase in 2009, according to a news release from TBI.

There were 7,493 offenses reported in 2011 compared with 7,190 in 2010.

Violent crime also increased statewide for the second year in a row, up nearly 20 percent from 2010 to 2011, the report said. The FBI includes murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault under violent crimes. There were no murders in any of the area schools, according to the report, but UTC reported one rape while University of the South reported two.

At the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, most crime numbers remained relatively flat.

There were 28 assaults reported, up from 24 last year, data shows, but what has steadily increased since 2008 at UTC has been the number of drug or narcotic violations, which have risen from 65 to 80 in the three-year period, although the rate per student/personnel hasn't changed much.

"We take campus safety very seriously," said Chuck Cantrell, spokesman for UTC. "We know that's a major consideration for students and families when they are looking where to go to college.

"We are happy our numbers have stayed very consistent as our enrollment has grown and we have more people on campuses," he added.

Since 2001, UTC's total campus population, including students and personnel, has grown from less than 8,000 to about 11,000.

Robbin Higgins, a part-time UTC student and WUTC-FM employee, said campus safety is better.

"I haven't heard of anything happening in a while," she said. "But I still think twice about walking across campus at night."

She said she tries to find parking as close to her classes as possible.

In the Chattanooga area, Southern Adventist University has among the highest rates of thefts and assaults. In 2011, there were 20 assaults reported with the majority being either intimidation, stalking or simple assault, the report said.

And the number of thefts reported at Southern increased from 29 in 2010 to 54 in 2011.

"Our university has made every effort to be extremely transparent in reporting our numbers accurately, but statistics can be deceiving," Kevin Penrod, director of campus safety at Southern Adventist, wrote in an email. "For example, the majority of 'assaults' on campus at Southern have been verbal in nature."

Jacqueline Olivas, a student at Southern Adventist, said she feels pretty safe on campus, especially when she compares it to her home town of Miami.

"Last year, I got detergent stolen from the laundry room [in the dorms], but that's pretty much it," the 20-year-old junior said.

UTC's Cantrell said an increase in campus crime across the state can be partly attributed to the growth the campuses experienced plus a culture that encourages students to report crime.

"A college campus that says it doesn't have any crime, it's a campus that's not reporting it's crime properly," he said. "The same issues that a city faces a campus faces," he said.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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