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Fall semester crime declines, sexual assault reports at five-year high

An overview of crime on Grounds

This semester, students received a total of seven “Timely Warning: Your Right to Know” safety announcements from the University Police Department regarding various crimes that occurred on or around Grounds. The majority of these warnings involved either robberies or sexual assaults.

There were six warnings issued by UPD in the fall 2015 semester and five warnings issued in the spring 2016 semester, which means the number of safety announcements has increased slightly this semester. However, there has not been a substantial increase in crime on and near Grounds. According to a report from the UPD, the number of crimes reported this semester is the second lowest in the past five years.

Crimes reported this semester

On Aug. 24, the day after classes started for the fall semester, UPD sent an email to students regarding a robbery that had occurred after midnight on Aug. 21. The victim reported being robbed by two armed men while walking alone in the area of 16th Street NW and Gordon Avenue.

This robbery was the first in a string of armed robberies that occurred throughout the next few weeks. The second robbery occurred in the 800 block of Cabell Avenue just before midnight on Aug. 31, and the third occurred in the 400 block of Rugby Road around 11 p.m. on Sept. 4.

As a result, the Charlottesville Police Department began investigating the robberies and increasing patrols around the University.

“Our patrol commanders have been briefing officers on these incidents during roll call and formulating response plans for any additional incidents, [while] our Investigations Bureau is currently investigating all the cases and investigators are collaborating with each other,” CPD Public Information Officer Lt. Steve Upman said in an email statement.

On Sept. 9, the Charlottesville police arrested three suspects — 18-year-old Charlottesville resident Pendarvis Marquette Carrington, 17-year-old Charlottesville resident Za’Juan Page and an unnamed 17-year-old.

A number of sexual assaults have also been reported to the police department this semester. On Aug. 20, a female victim reported that she was sexually assaulted by an unknown man armed with a knife. The assault occurred on Emmet Street between McCormick Road and Thomson Road sometime between 12:01 a.m. and 1:07 a.m.

Another assault was reported to the police on Oct. 16. According to an email from UPD, a female student reported that she and a friend were walking down 15th Street across from GrandMarc apartments when a group of males approached them. One male pushed the student into the bushes, grabbed her inappropriately and held her in the bushes until she and her friend were able to fight him off.

On the same day, an attempted sexual assault occurred between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Grady Avenue. An unknown male entered a student organization house, went into an upstairs bedroom and began kissing the occupant, who was asleep. The suspect fled the house when confronted by the occupant.

In addition to robberies and sexual assaults, the University experienced an incidence of gun violence this semester.

On Oct. 1, University and city police departments responded to a disorder in the Corner parking lot around 2 a.m. As they approached the scene, they heard gunshots. Three victims were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Charlottesville police arrested 23-year-old Lewis Alexander Tyree, Jr. in connection with the shooting. He was charged with possession or transportation of a firearm by a convicted felon.

University crime across semesters

Sixty-five on-Grounds crimes were reported this semester, according to statistics from the UPD, which run from Aug. 18 to Nov. 27. The majority of these crimes were larceny, which was reported 51 times. Sexual assault was reported six times, burglary was reported five times, aggravated assault was reported twice and automotive theft was reported once.

While two more crimes were reported in the fall 2016 semester than in the fall 2015 semester, the type of crimes shifted from year to year. In fall 2015, only two sexual assaults were reported and five aggravated assaults were reported.

The overall number of crimes on Grounds has decreased the past few years. Three years ago, the number of crimes reported in the fall semester reached 123. While 96 of these crimes were larceny and 15 were burglaries, several automotive thefts, aggravated assaults and sexual assaults were also reported.

Fall 2016 has seen the highest number of reported sexual assaults on Grounds within the past five years. Fall 2013 is the only semester that comes close with four reported sexual assaults.

Crime in the Charlottesville community

Data from CPD shows that as of Dec. 2, a fewer number of fall crimes have been reported in the city of Charlottesville than in the past few years. A complete analysis will not be made until the fall semester concludes on Dec. 16, but so far, there have been 393 reported crimes in Charlottesville. This is in comparison to 405 crimes reported in fall 2015 and a five-year mean of 520 crimes.

This downward trend has been consistent, Upman said.

“For the past 10 years, these [crimes] … they’ve actually been trending downward for ten years,” Upman said. “So while Charlottesville is a much safer environment than some other cities, we still have these types of crimes.”

Overall larceny, which includes pocket picking, purse snatching, shoplifting, theft from a building, theft from a coin operated machine or device, theft from a motor vehicle and theft of parts from a motor vehicle, was the most common type of crime reported in Charlottesville, just as it was on Grounds.

There were 277 reported larcenies this fall, which accounted for 70 percent of all crimes reported this semester. Upman said he does know the reason for this, simply that it was statistically the most reported incident.

There were only three sexual assaults reported in the city of Charlottesville, less than the amount reported on Grounds.

Promoting safety on Grounds

Both police departments and on-Grounds organizations have measures in place to help make the University a safe place for students.

CPD has a Crime Prevention Unit that speaks with groups in the community and conducts home security surveys, Upman said. CPD also has officers who are certified in crime prevention through environmental design.

“[These officers] can come out and take a look at a building, residence or area and make an analysis on how to reduce the opportunity for incidence to occur by increasing lighting, cutting back bushes, all that kind of stuff,” Upman said.

Upman and UPD Crime Prevention Coordinator Benjamin Rexrode both said patrol officers play a major role in promoting safety.

“One of the best ways to reduce certain types of crimes is our mere presence,” Rexrode said in an email statement. “When our patrol officers are engaged and visible on Grounds, it can instill a sense of security to our community members as well as prevent criminal activity.”

Rexrode said UPD has numerous types of programming for the community, including safety and self-defense seminars. Officers also present on topics such as alcohol and drug abuse awareness, sexual and gender based violence awareness and violent incident and response awareness.

Both the CPD and UPD place emphasis on informing the community of crimes that have occurred in a timely manner.

“It’s incumbent upon us to let the public know that [crimes] have occurred so that people can be vigilant and not become complacent when it comes to potentially being a victim,” Upman said.

The CPD distributes a daily bulletin, which includes every incident report the police department has received during the previous three days. It also includes information about accidents that have occurred and people who have been arrested.

The UPD sends “Timely Warning” emails when crimes meet specific criteria under the Clery Act. Some of the criteria include whether or not the perpetrator has been apprehended and whether or not there is a serious ongoing threat to the University community.

On Grounds, organizations like the University Judiciary Committee help promote safety in the community.

“What we do to protect students and ensure safety is we uphold these standards and when students are alleged of violating them, we hold them responsible by making them come to the judicial trial,” UJC Chair Mitchell Wellman, a fourth-year College student, said.

UJC has 12 standards that act as behavioral guidelines for students. These standards range in severity from prohibiting students from physically assaulting others to prohibiting the underage consumption of alcohol.

“The big point is that by having a code of conduct, by enforcing the code of conduct, we de-incentivize students from behaving like that,” Wellman said.

UJC also partners with other organizations to go into the community and spread the word about resources available to students or anyone who believes a University student has violated the standards of conduct against them.

However, Wellman said he believes the safety level of a community ultimately depends on the people.

“It depends on the culture of that community and the mechanisms in place that regulate that culture,” Wellman said. “I think that at U.Va., we have a fairly unified community within the University. I think the University provides those mechanisms of control.”


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