TBI report: Crime down at local colleges, universities

Nathan Baker • Apr 7, 2014 at 9:50 PM

Crime at East Tennessee State University in 2013 was at its lowest point in more than five years, statistics released Friday by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said.

The overall crime rate on the Johnson City campus last year was 15.8 crimes per 1,000 campus population, down from 23.7 in 2012 and from a peak of 28.2 in 2009.

ETSU Public Safety Chief Jack Cotrel said certain outreach programs have proven effective, but wouldn’t take full responsibility for the decrease, saying many crimes are often cyclical, without a definite trigger for their ebbs and flows.

The latest crime statistics said there were no forcible sex crimes reported last year, down from two the year before.

The decrease bucks the trend at colleges statewide, which shows a 25 percent increase in forcible sex offenses from 2012 to 2013.

Assaults dropped by more than half, from 44 in 2012 to 20 last year, with significant decreases in reported cases of simple assault and intimidation.

Robbery was the one violent crime category with an increase, with one additional instance reported last year over 2012’s single case.

Burglary and theft offenses were also down, continuing a downward trend that goes back to at least 2010.

“The good news is, we’re down across the board,” Cotrel said. “We’re very pleased with these numbers. It’s always good to see them go down, especially in the larceny and assaults categories.”

Reported fraud offenses tripled from 2012, a phenomenon the chief attributed to a rise of scams on craigslist.com, through which swindlers send phony checks to pay for merchandise and ask for some of the cash to be returned to them.

After rises in 2011 and 2012, there were fewer drug violations reported on campus in 2013.

Drug violations dropped by a quarter and paraphernalia violations fell by 15 percent.

Alcohol offenses, grouped by the TBI in a lesser group with curfew violations and peeping-Tom offenses, dramatically decreased from one year to the next.

Driving under the influence fell 45 percent, drunkenness by 47 and liquor law violations by 57 percent.

The latter category has fallen from a total 68 reported instances in 2010, but Cotrel said those figures could be influenced by the campus’ residency halls handling alcohol policy violations, which aren’t illegal but are against the rules, in-house.

“Housing and student affairs have really gotten tough with sanctions for violation of those policies,” he said. “If it’s an adult in possession of alcohol, they may have violated a campus regulation, but not a law. There was a time when we handled everything, but if it’s not illegal activity or a health risk, they are taking that over more and more.”

The area’s smaller colleges remained at low crime levels again last year.

Northeast State Community College posted an overall rate of 3.4 crimes per 1,000 campus population, but did report a forcible fondling and a case of intimidation.

Milligan College’s five total crimes in 2012 fell to four in 2013, all of them either theft or vandalism.

Follow Nathan Baker on Twitter @JCPressBaker. Like him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/jcpressbaker.

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