Crime Rates Low in Dallas

Morgan Harding, Print Editor

Luzerne County is now ranked ninth in the state for violent crimes, but local college campuses rank far better.

Violent crimes, which include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, increased by 30% from 2010 to 2011. There was no rise in these types of crimes on the campuses of Misericordia, Wilkes or Kings.

Campus safety officials at colleges and universities are required to report uniform crime statistics to both the FBI and the Department of Education each year. The report includes crime statistics over a three-year period. The Department of Education requires a comprehensive breakdown of the filed data, according to Paul Murphy, Director of Campus Safety and Facilities. This report tells the Department of Education where the crime happened and whether it was violent or nonviolent.

There is no correlation between the rise in crime in the county and the crime rates on college campuses. According to Robert Zavada, Associate Director of Campus Safety, universities do not report every statistic to local law enforcement officers.

“We report as a university. Dallas Township also reports that information. There are many offenses that we must report but they do not turn into a police investigation. If the student or staff member takes it to the police it is then included in that borough, city or township’s crime statistics,” said Zavada.

Misericordia University did not report statistics from crimes that increased in Luzerne County. There are very few, if any, violent crimes on campus, Zavada said.

Misericordia officials did report higher than usual numbers for liquor law violations. Zadava credits this to campus safety officers and residence life members keeping a more vigilant eye on these types of offenses. This type of offense rarely goes to the next level of law enforcement because it is a victimless crime.

“You don’t have someone reporting that they were victimized because someone broke the liquor law. An increase in those numbers doesn’t always follow suit with that’s happening in Luzerne County,” said Zavada.

Liquor law offenses make up the majority of the crime statistics at King’s College and Wilkes University’s as well. Wilkes University officials reported 12 violent crimes occurring between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011. Eight occurred on campus, four occurred on public property that is adjacent to campus property.

Misericordia officials also reported 12 violent crimes occurring during the same calendar year with four offenses occurring on campus, one offense occurring in a residential building and seven occurring in non-campus buildings and property.

Zavada believes that  the 2009 and 2012 numbers show a significant difference. In 2009 192 crimes were reported to campus safety.  The number decreased in 2010o to 168 but then rose to 186 in 2011.

“From three years ago to today, there has been a rise in offenses. The past two years have been pretty steady even with the increased number of students on campus. We are only half way through the first month of the year. We have yet to see a drastic increase in crime,” said Zavada.

Zavada recognizes that an expanding campus is one possible cause of the 2010 to 2011 rise in crime rates.

Campus officials welcomed the largest freshman class in university history this September, but Zavada does not think it is a large enough number to lead to a jump in the the statistics.

“Anytime there is an increase in population there is the chance that crime statistics will increase also because of the influx of people,” said Murphy.

During this time period the campus expanded further into the Dallas community with the addition of the two off-campus dorms and the Passan Science Building, a factor Zavada said contributes to the rise in crime. Murphy cannot compare campus to that of Kings or Wilkes because MU is secluded and Kings and Wilkes are located inside the city. He sees the campus as a safer place because there is no through traffic or people wandering onto campus, despite the fact that there are more off-campus buildings now than there were several years ago.

Safety officials are doing as much as they can to ensure that campus remains a safe place for staff members and students. Officers patrol on foot and in cars 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “We are a presence on campus. While there is no yardstick to measure how much we prevent, there is something to be said for having random patrols. People don’t know where we are going to come through an area and that stops a lot,” said Murphy.

Zavada attributes  campus crime prevention education as a limiting crime factor. First years are required to attend substance abuse classes during their orientation. “If we see someone straying, we are aggressive to help that person, to connect with that person. That helps to stop potential incidents that could have occurred had we not intervened,” said Zavada.

He is  collecting the statistics for the 2012 annual uniform crime report that will be completed December 31, 2012.

Nine months into the year, Zavada reports that there have been no manslaughters, robberies, murders, drug incidents or illegal weapon possessions incidents on campus. Statistics regarding theft are on track with the 2011 numbers but slightly higher. Incidents of property crimes, vandalism and criminal mischief have already reached the final number of the 2011 year and are expected to continue increasing. Zavada expects the  the number of liquor law violations to be close to that in 2011.

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