Fewer Arrests, But More Drug Offenses

October 25, 2010

By Mark Newton

VCU students were arrested and given judicial referrals 549 fewer times on both the Monroe and MCV campuses last year than in 2008, according to Clery data released by the VCU Police Department on Friday. That’s nearly half the weapon, drug and liquor-related offenses, from 1,288 to 739.

The report, however, says both good and bad things about drug use among students. Proportionally, fewer students were arrested or received a judicial referral for liquor-related offenses from 2008 to 2009, and the change is greater since 2007.

Now the bad: drug-related offenses increased by 6.7 percent since 2008, an 11 percent change from 2007. However, while there were half as many offenses in 2009, they represented more of the total crimes in 2009.

Liquor-related offenses, however, still made up a majority of arrests and referrals in 2009 at 446 offenses of 739, which is also nearly half the number of the 806 liquor offenses in 2007.

Speaking only on the arrests, Sgt. Chris Preuss of the VCU Police explained how these numbers are acquired and organized within the Clery data report. Besides reporting arrests on VCU campus and within police jurisdiction, an arrest is counted when a crime occurs where VCU property is, even if the property isn’t typically considered within VCU’s boundaries.

In addition, if a violation occurs, VCU Police are called in to handle the offender.  “When alcohol or drugs are involved,” he said, “we’re almost always involved. I can’t think of a single instance where we weren’t.”

On the actual numbers, however, Preuss is “leery.” For example, he explained, if there were 50 instances of graffiti on different streets done by only person, 50 different entries would be made, not only the single arrest. What has changed for Preuss on the ground, however,  is a decrease in larcenies, which he attributes to an increased push for safety and security education, especially this year, which he believes should be seen in next year’s crime data. “I’ve never seen a harder push for education than this year,” he said.

Preuss stresses, however, that enforcement hasn’t slackened. “We are now populated with more students than we’ve ever had, and the drug laws and the alcohol laws have been treated the exact same way.”

However, the numbers presented by the Clery data strikes several students, like freshman Victoria Ero, as contrary to the college student stereotype. “I think of college partying as more of beer and liquor more than drugs,” she said. “I would think it would be the opposite, personally, because I know a lot of people who drink but I don’t know a lot of people who do drugs.”

To senior Naveed Kolia, however, the change fits into an overall trend he sees in public perception of marijuana.

“Society has adapted into a more passive lifestyle. There’s not much need for crime because everyone is in depression or in poverty or in the recession our economy has been going through.” On why drug offenses have increased, he added, “Weed has become a more recreational drug than anything else. Everywhere you look, it’s all about smoking marijuana in rap videos, the music industry and movies. It’s just become a common thing.”

The data also tells the same story on the MCV Campus, but to a much more dramatic degree than Monroe Campus. Drug-related offenses made up 62.3 percent of the 55 arrests and 14 judicial referrals, while there were only 17 liquor offenses, or 24.6 percent of offenses on the MCV Campus.

In total, VCU police made 586 arrests and 302 judicial referrals last year, with 253 arrests made on public property and 218 on campus. Judicial referrals evenly split between incidents on-campus and in residence halls.

In an e-mail sent to VCU students and faculty, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration John Bennett explained the how these locations were determined in the report: “It […] indicates whether the crimes occurred on VCU property (called ‘on campus’), on VCU property which is geographically separated from the VCU campuses (called ‘non-campus’), or on streets or city property within reasonable proximity of VCU’s campuses (called ‘public property’).”

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires colleges and universities that receive financial aid to disclose incidents of crime on or near campus.  The VCU Police Annual Security Report and Crime Statistics data for the past three years were sent by e-mail to VCU students and is available online through the VCU Police website.

To see the spreadsheet used to analyze and organize the data, click here. ¤