published Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Colleges reflect national crime statistics

Crime on Campus 2010
Crime on Campus 2010

Crime is down overall at Tennessee colleges, but the number of violent crimes has swelled, according to an annual college crime report released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

In 2010, 7,190 offenses were reported on college campuses, compared with 7,538 in 2009, a 4 percent drop overall.

But violent crime rose nearly 20 percent, from 102 offenses in 2009 to 122 offenses in 2010, according to TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm.

Crime statistics at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Chattanooga State Community College reflect the state’s pattern.

UTC reported 164 thefts in 2009, which dropped to 139 in 2010. But the number of assaults climbed from 20 to 24.

“An increased number of assaults could draw from a variety of factors, anything from domestic issues to roommate conflicts,” said Bob Ratchford, chief of UTC Police.

UTC also listed one rape, down from three the previous year. Chattanooga State reported no rapes.

Chattanooga State reported 20 theft offenses in 2009, which went down to 19 in 2010, the TBI reports. Assaults, however, rose from four to eight.

Stephanie Hill, chief of Chattanooga State Police, said it was hard to speculate on why that number doubled.

“Most of the charges stem from verbal altercations or threats,” she said. “It’s hard to judge assaults by their increase or decrease because they’re personal in nature. They’re not necessarily related to the institution as a whole.”

Helm noted that the amount of violent crime at college still is relatively small, about 2 percent.

“Even though we saw a large increase, violent crimes make up a very small percentage of the total crime rate,” Helm said.

Drug violations at UTC also went up — from 65 to 76 this year, the TBI said, but no drug violations were listed at Chattanooga State.

Ratchford has been involved in law enforcement at UTC for 29 years and said the school’s crime trends tend to go through cycles.

“We constantly have to adapt to new issues,” he said. “Right now our enrollment is up, but our overall crime is down — which means our officers are doing something right.”

Hill noted a similar increase in security measures at Chattanooga State.

“We’ve become more visible, increasing patrol patterns, attending student events. We’re out there more,” she said.

TBI is required by the state to keep track of college crime data, according to Helm, and colleges are trained to classify and submit their crime statistics monthly to the bureau.

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