Police Chief Troy Lane talks about department plans to send officers to work the UT-Florida game after Hurricane Irma has left the area short staffed.
Rachel Ohm/ News Sentinel.
Crime on college campuses in Tennessee decreased in 2017, despite a more than 60 percent increase in reports of driving under the influence, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The agency on Thursday released its annual Crime on Campus report, which also indicated significant drops in robberies, assaults and forcible sex offenses. Overall, crime was down 2.8 percent on campuses across the state.
Reports of driving under the influence increased by more than 60 percent in 2017, though there were still just 103 cases total, or less than 2 percent of overall crimes.
The report includes statistics on crimes self-reported by colleges and universities as well as statistics from local police agencies on crimes committed against students in the county in which they attend school.
“This report will hopefully assist law enforcement, institution administrations and government officials in planning their efforts in the fight against crime and continue to create an awareness that crime exists as a threat in our communities,” TBI Director Mark Gwyn said in a news release.
The bureau does not offer analysis on the statistics, but rather leaves that to individual agencies, said spokesman Josh DeVine.
Theft most common and rarely solved
Theft is the most common crime on campuses across the state, accounting for more than 26 percent of offenses in 2017.
At the University of Tennessee Knoxville, the state system’s flagship campus, there were 197 reports of theft in 2017. The campus has a population of 28,321 students, according to the report.
Vanderbilt University, with a population of 12,630 students, had 341 reports of theft in 2017.
“Theft is always our largest number,” UT Police Chief Troy Lane said in an email. “It encompasses so many things, from theft of unattended property like books, laptops, phones and the like, all the way up to very high-dollar items. An unfortunate byproduct of a college campus is that there is a lot of opportunity for someone who wants to steal someone else’s property.”
The offense also has a low clearance rate at many campuses, meaning that most reports of theft are not solved.
At UT Knoxville, for example, only 15 percent of reported thefts were solved in 2017. Only 17 percent were solved at Vanderbilt.
Lane said it can be hard to track stolen property, especially cash, which is why so many schools have low clearance rates for theft.
UT has two programs it uses to curtail theft. One is Operation ID, by which students can share information such as make, model and serial number of their electronics with police so that in the event the item is stolen it can be tracked down more easily.
The other, called “GOTCHA,” has officers leave tickets on unattended property to remind the owners of the dangers of leaving their valuables unattended.
Alcohol and drug violations remain perennial problems
Alcohol and drug violations remain perennial problems on Tennessee’s college campuses, according to the report. In addition, there was a spike in driving under the influence — which could be either drugs or alcohol — in 2017.
Across the state, there were 103 incidents of DUI in 2017, an increase of more than 60 percent from 2016. Forty-one, or almost half, of those cases were reported at UT Knoxville.
Lane attributed the increase to efforts by UT police personnel and in particular Officer Jeffrey Quirin, who was recently recognized by the Tennessee Highway Safety Office for his efforts to combat driving under the influence.
Lane said Quirin was responsible for “better than half of those numbers.”
Across the state, liquor law violations accounted for about 12 percent of criminal offenses on college campuses, while drug offenses made up about 17 percent.
Sexual assault isn’t always reported to police
Forcible sex offenses made up fewer than 2 percent of crimes on campus reported to police in 2017, according to the report.
However, Lane said most reports of sexual violence are not made to police but rather to campus security authorities, which include non-law enforcement officials on campus.
As a result, the numbers reflected in TBI’s report may be lower than in other reports on sexual violence such as the federal Clery Act report. That report, released in October, indicated there were 22 reports of rape on the UT Knoxville campus in 2016.
In comparison, TBI reported just two cases of rape reported to UT Police in 2017 and four cases of rape in 2016.
2017 Crime on Campus
Austin Peay State University
- Student population 8,236
- Larceny/theft: 43
- Drug/narcotic violations: 78
- DUI: 8
- Liquor law violations: 10
- Forcible sex offenses: 6
Middle Tennessee State University
- Student population 20,304
- Larceny/theft: 128
- Drug/narcotic violations: 100
- DUI: 16
- Liquor law violations: 8
- Forcible sex offenses: 6
University of Memphis
- Student population 19,249
- Larceny/theft: 113
- Drug/narcotic violations: 19
- DUI: 4
- Liquor law violations: 0
- Forcible sex offenses: 7
University of Tennessee Knoxville
- Student population 28,321
- Larceny/theft: 197
- Drug/narcotic violations: 121
- DUI: 41
- Liquor law violations: 31
- Forcible sex offenses: 4
- Student population 12,630
- Larceny/theft: 341
- Drug/narcotic violations: 177
- DUI: 9
- Liquor law violations: 274
- Forcible sex offenses: 16
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