Aggravated assaults at VCU jump 50%

October 23, 2013

By William Lineberry, Lee Francis and Geoffrey Cooper

The number of aggravated assaults on and around VCU’s two main campuses increased 50 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to data from the university’s Police Department.

In 2011, officials handled 12 assaults — 10 on the Monroe Park campus and two at the Medical College of Virginia. But the total jumped to 18 last year, with 13 on the Monroe Park campus and five at MCV. (In 2010, VCU Police reported 12 aggravated assaults as well, with nine of them on the Monroe Park campus.)

The data came from the 2013 VCU Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, which the university recently posted online.

An analysis of the data also showed that:

¶ Burglaries also increased more than 50 percent, from 11 in 2011 to 17 in 2012. However, that’s a far cry from the 130 burglaries that occurred in 2010.

¶ Motor vehicle thefts also have increased — from 18 in 2010, to 20 the following year, to 23 in 2012. Of last year’s car thefts, 15 happened on the Monroe Park campus and eight at MCV.

¶ Robberies decreased slightly — from 21 in 2011 to 19 last year.

¶ So did sex offenses, dropping from eight to seven.

Overall last year, VCU had a total of 85 incidents of sex offenses, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, vehicle thefts and arson. (The report also covers murder and manslaughter; VCU hasn’t had any of those crimes in recent years.)

Last year’s crime total was up 16 percent from 2011. However, it was less than half the crime total from 2010.

“Safety and security at VCU is everyone’s responsibility,” David Hanson, VCU’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, said in an email announcing the release of the report. “I encourage the entire community to remain involved in keeping our campus safe. If you see something that looks suspicious, contact VCU Police immediately.”

He said VCU is “incorporating more communications methods for notifying students, faculty and staff of certain crimes that occur on or near the VCU campuses in an effort to enhance safety, promote safe behavior and to prevent crimes.”

Moreover, Hanson said, “VCU Police has realigned its deployment to make sure there is a visible police presence on campus during the times people say they most want to see officers and the times when officers are most likely to prevent crime.”

VCU Police last year reported steep decreases in liquor law arrests (down 45 percent, to 255), drug law arrests (down 33 percent, to 249) and weapons law arrests (down 29 percent, to 37). There had been big increases in those categories from 2010 to 2011.

Despite the fluctuations, one statistic remained static: Approximately nine of every 10 drug or alcohol offenses reported at VCU occurred on the Monroe Park campus, not at the university’s medical school.

Substance abuse on campus is on the VCU Police Department’s radar. VCU Police Chief John Venuti recently told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that at the beginning of the semester, his officers spoke to thousands of new students about the school’s drug and alcohol policies.

Venuti also said the university boasts Virginia’s largest campus police department, which is also among the biggest nationwide. The department currently has 86 officers and is in the process of recruiting for six more positions to help protect the university’s 32,000 students.

Data scraped from VCU Annual Security

This article is a “Data Drop brief” — a quick-hit posting based on analysis by students in MASC 644 Computer-Assisted Reporting. The exercise involved extracting tables from a PDF; creating one table with data for multiple years; and then analyzing the results. Students practiced crafting “change over time” formulas using “if” clauses (to avoid error messages when dividing by zero).