Amidst bomb threats, gun scares and purse snatchings, CSUN’s crime numbers size up comparably well to some of its larger counterparts.
Of the six most populated schools in the California State University system, Northridge falls in the middle and takes third place for the most on-campus crimes.
The list of CSU campuses includes Fullerton, Long Beach, Northridge, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, all with a student population between 28,000 and 37,000 and between 26 and 30 sworn officers.
Northridge’s burglary count decreased from 71 in 2010 to 58 in 2011, while motor vehicle theft grew from 11 in 2010 to 15 in 2011, according to the 2012 Clery Report. Those numbers can be deceiving if not specified, according to CSUN Police Captain Scott VanScoy.
“We really have to break it down to see specific crime areas and clarify those statistics to find trends,” VanScoy said. He added CSUN had a trend of various Honda model thefts in 2010 with a combination of cars, sport bike motorcycles and the Taylor-Dunn electric carts seen around campus in 2011.
“We got a lot of those joy rides of the carts on campus, so the numbers can be misleading as to what’s really going on,” VanScoy said.
Cameras as crime prevention
CSU Long Beach was able to cut in half the amount of motor vehicle thefts from 10 in 2010 to five in 2011, according to the CSULB Clery Report. CSULB Police Captain Scott Brown credited the decrease to newly installed security cameras in parking garages.
“I think if you have something that’s a deterrent, you want people to know it’s there, and the cameras are ultimately something that makes it less attractive to come to campus and commit a crime,” Brown said.
Brown, who has been at Long Beach for more than 19 years, said he would encourage other campuses to install cameras and inform students of the cameras’ presence.
Anne Glavin, CSUN’s chief of police and director of parking services, said she has been considering the installation of more security cameras across campus.
Glavin, who oversees the $18 million combined budget for the Department of Police Services and the Parking and Transportation Department, said the money for the cameras would come from the budgets of the campus departments in which the cameras would be located.
The closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras would only come from the police department’s $4 million budget if they were to be installed in or around the police department, according to Glavin.
Of that $4 million, Glavin said 85 percent is spent on the police department staff’s salary and benefits with the remaining 15 percent spent on various expenses like patrol cars and equipment.
Officers: Ideal numbers vs. reality
College campuses typically employ one officer per 1,000 students, according to VanScoy. He said Northridge has never had more than its current number of 26 officers, a ratio even lower than one to 1,000 with CSUN’s student population at nearly 37,000 people.
“We always wish we had more, but we do amazing things with what we have if we train them well and have good policies,” VanScoy said.
San Jose State University saw lower numbers of burglaries but the highest number of aggravated assaults with 18 in 2011. SJSU only had two cases of on-campus aggravated assaults in 2010.
SJSU Sergeant John Laws said although the campus administration is supportive of the police department, a staff with more than only 30 officers would be helpful.
“Is the amount of officers sufficient? Yes, but realistically we should probably have about 40 officers to run this campus appropriately,” Laws said. “Some officers might say we need 100, but I’m trying to be reasonable.”
Varying crime rates
CSU Fullerton was another school with fewer crimes, decreasing from 16 burglaries in 2010 to only six the following year, according to the CSU Fullerton Clery Report. Fullerton also decreased in forcible sex offenses from four to zero but increased in motor vehicle thefts from 10 to 14.
CSU Fullerton Police Captain John Brocky said this year’s numbers were fairly small compared to other years with more significant crime numbers.
“It’s hard to put a finger on any particular fact (about the decrease),” said Brocky, who has been at Fullerton for 15 years. “We are always trying to be proactive with crime prevention education programs, presentations and patrols, because we always want to reduce numbers.”
San Diego State University is by far the worst in terms of crime rates with 88 burglaries in 2010, but they decreased to 65 burglaries in 2011 according to the SDSU Clery Report. SDSU increased from 31 motor vehicle thefts in 2010 to 39 the following year.
San Diego State was able to decrease in forcible sex offenses from 20 to 10, but even with the decrease, the school still checks in at the top for sex offenses and motor vehicle thefts for 2011.
San Francisco State University is in the top tier as well with an increase from 43 burglaries in 2010 to 72 in 2011 according to the SFSU Clery Report. However, SFSU was able to decline in robberies from 31 in 2010 to only two the following year.
Representatives from the police department at SDSU and SFSU were not available for comment.
Safety as a community effort
As for student safety, VanScoy urged people should be less involved in the “routine” and be more aware of things around them.
Kim Lewis, an English graduate student, said she assumes the people around her would protect her rather than harm her.
“I look around extra just because I am paranoid and by myself at night,” said Lewis. “I see other people more as people who can help if something does happen.”
“A lot of our crimes we’ve solved are trends and have been solved by community members who are paying attention,” said VanScoy, who added the involvement of the on-campus housing community, administration and staff helped arrest and convict a former student on 22 burglary counts.
Chief Glavin agreed with VanScoy’s advocacy of community awareness and stressed the importance of students acting in conjunction with university police to keep the campus a safe one.
“Everyone on campus are eyes and ears when it comes to safety and security,” Glavin said. “The police department is only so big, and try as we will, we’re working every hour that we’re here because that’s what we do. However, we need all the help we can get.”
To get informed, students can participate in CSUN’s crime prevention and awareness classes, like Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) and The Basics of Pepper Spray.