The Digital Journalism Blog


BU Police fight crime on campus

Posted in Uncategorized by com360bu on December 10, 2012

The Bradley Police Department is increasing efforts to keep students safe entering winter break. Historically, in the month of December crime rates increase leading BUPD to introduce the Hilltop Safety Cruiser. Detailed crime stats and a night out on campus looking for the cruiser highlight the coverage.

Vacant House Watch, Safety Cruiser  head BUPD safety efforts

BY: DANNY VERNON AND SEAN FLAVIN

As the school semester winds down, Bradley University’s Police Department is escalating their efforts to protect students and their property. In late November, campus police launched the Hilltop Safety Cruiser, a shuttle service available to students looking to avoid late night walks. BUPD will also be continuing their Vacant House Watch Program during the winter recess in an effort to protect off-campus student housing during breaks.

Armed with two programs still in their infancy, BUPD and university officials are hoping to reverse disturbing trends in Peoria crime data and silence growing concerns of the students. And December is a good month to do it, albeit a challenging one. Last year’s crime statistics show a significant jump in a number of crimes that these programs are targeting during the month.

Bradley Hilltop Safety Cruiser

Police Chief Brian Joschko has emphasized student safety since his arrival from Marquette University in 2010. The launching of the shuttle bus will make it back-to-back years in Joschko’s tenure that a major safety program has been implemented on campus.

At Marquette, Joschko oversaw a much larger program in terms of scale and area covered. The Milwaukee campus boasted a double-digit shuttle fleet and serviced a campus with about twice the amount of students.

The Hilltop Safety Cruiser operates on a much smaller scale but has produced impressive returns since its inception in late November and is already averaging 62 transports per night.

“The numbers are fantastic. I have not heard a single negative note yet,” said Joschko. “I’ve heard some comments about students cancelling for rides and some students not being there when we got there… But, those are all little bumps in the road that we’ll be able to get through.”

A major crime the shuttle service is targeting is robbery, which decreased by six percent from 2010 to 2011 but increased the last month of the year. In December 2011, Peoria police reported 38 instances of robbery, an increase of over 40 percent from the previous year.

Jumps in percentage of crime between December 2010 and December 2011

Jumps in percentage of crime between December 2010 and December 2011

The service is intended for students, faculty and staff trying to avoid walking home on campus alone, students are required to provide their ID number to dispatch when they call for the ride and show their student ID card when they get on the van. However, Joschko considers this service open to campus guests to make sure that everyone gets to their destinations safely.

“I was very, very impressed from the first night and every night since. My philosophy is: use it for whatever reason you want to use it,” said Joschko, citing an incident where students were robbed walking to St. James from a McDonald’s two blocks away and reiterated it doesn’t matter how far the van takes students, “it’s about safety.”

Vacant House Watch Program

Last year’s inaugural Vacant House Watch Program policed over 40 houses near Bradley’s Campus in response to escalating numbers of burglary and theft in Peoria. In 2011, burglaries jumped almost 20 percent and more than doubled in the month of December.

The Vacant House Watch dispatched officers to residences enrolled in the program three times a day, and each shift was required to do a physical walk through of the homes. The program relied on an intense time commitment from the department and officer’s abilities to identify anything out of the ordinary.

“(Officers patrolled) the houses to see if lights are on when they shouldn’t be on, or lights are off when they should be on, cars in the driveway, cars in front of the houses,” Joschko said. The chief identified one factor that makes the job easier.

“One thing when break periods hit around here there is no one around, it’s like a ghost town around (campus).”

BUPD reported three burglaries during winter break last year, down from 13 the year before. One of those three houses burglarized participated in the program. A Bradley police officer noticed something odd the houses and put out an alert, the oddity turned out to be nothing but the alert lead an arrest of three men and the seizure of almost $20,000 in stolen property, including the property of the house in question.

“So we had great success with that program and hopefully we’re going to build on that and have a higher number of people registered for this break period,” said Joschko, who doesn’t think an increase in houses will put too much stress on the department and thinks BUPD “certainly (has) the capacity to take on more.”

Senior communications major Alyssa Maluenda and her roommates took advantage of the program after an incident occurred last winter break.

“We signed up for the program over summer break because someone broke into our old apartment and stole all of our TVs,” said Maluenda.

Theft, criminal damage to property and burglary accounted for almost 75 percent of reported crime on Bradley’s campus during the 2012 fall semester. Theft accounted for almost a third of the crime alone and increased 35 percent during the December 2011 compared to December 2010, and was the largest year-to-year change of any of the months.

BU-crimes

Percentage of Crimes on BU campus

Peoria Police and Sheriff Incident Detail Report

Bradley Campus from Nov 1, 2012 to Dec 1, 2012

  • Theft – 13 instances
  • Burglary Residence – 12 instances
  • Property Damage – nine instances
  • Aggravated Assault – six instances
  • Burglary/theft from a vehicle – three instances
  • Robbery – three instances
  • Burglary Business – one instance
Overall-crime-map

Hover over each dot to select a crime, for full interactive map, follow this link.

Data from November 2011 reported an increase in both total property crime and total person crime and each category was followed by a more significant jump in December. If a busy November indicates an even busier December, 2012 is almost guaranteed to provide a large enough sample of data for Bradley’s administration to determine the success of their recently implemented safety efforts.

Visiting Bradley Crime Hotspots and Trying To Find the Hilltop Safety Cruiser

Late on the night of Friday December 7th, we set out to visit some spots that crimes had occurred on Bradley’s campus between November 1st and December 1st. We did this during a time when Bradley’s new shuttle service, the Hilltop Safety Cruiser, was operating so we could also try to get a ride home on the shuttle.

 

Robbery, Battery, Burglary and Theft all increase significantly in December 2011

Jumps in percentage of crime between December 2010 and December 2011

Theft, Property Damage and Burglary account for bulk of BU crime

BU-crimes

BU Interactive Crime Map

Overall-crime-map

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