Analysis: 2019 DePaul Public Safety report


(DePaulia File Photo)

Though crime has increased significantly in both Lincoln Park and the Loop, the university’s annual Safety and Security Information Report and Fire Safety Report presents crime on campus as remaining practically stagnant.

Reported rapes are down in Lincoln Park, with three in 2018, compared to five last year. In the Loop, reported rapes are up with five in 2018 and three in 2017. Numbers listed under the residential facility section for each campus are included in those numbers. 

These numbers reflect rapes that were reported to either the university or the police and do not include those that went unreported. 

Bob Wachowski, the director of campus public safety, said that it is hard to tell whether these numbers represent an actual increase or decrease in crime or if they are simply a blip for the year.

“It’s a combination of things,” he said. “There’s Student Affairs with preventive programming, and you have to remember that this report is very specific. It’s based on geographic location of where the incidents happened.”

He added that because of how specific this report is, the numbers in a separate report Title IX compiles in compliance with the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Eduation Act will never match up with this report’s numbers. 

Campus robberies have stayed relatively the samenear the Lincoln Park campus, with 16 occurring off campus in 2018, compared to 15 in 2017. The Loop campus has seen a decrease in robberies in the past year — in 2018, there were 16 reported for both on campus and in public, and in 2017, there were 29. 

“We’re constantly looking at robberies on a regular basis — not just robberies, but also other types of crimes — to increase what we can do to prevent this,” Wachowski said. “That might be other steps, like increasing patrol, working with the city, undercover officers or crime-specific tactics.”

Wachowski recommends that students be alert when on campus and around the city because cell phones are the most frequently stolen item across the country.

“My office overlooks the ‘L,’ and 90 percent [of people on the platform] are looking with cell phones out,” Wachowski said. “Criminals grab and run.”

Liquor and drug referrals have stayed relatively stagnant as well over the past years. In 2016, there were 395 liquor law referrals on the Lincoln Park campus and none in the Loop. 

There were no liquor-related arrests that year. The number did decrease in 2017 with 262 referrals and one arrest. The number jumped back up in 2018 with 376 referrals and one arrest.

The Clery Act is a federal law that was implemented in 1990 when a Lehigh University student was sexually assaulted and murdered on campus. Parents believed that current and ongoing access to campus crime reports would help them create a better idea of what is going on on campus. Under the act, universities must publish an annual safety and security report. 

The university constantly looks at and analyzes crime reports that go through DePaul services and ones that are deemed “property adjacent” to campus. The university also looks into foreign and domestic areas the school has study abroad contracts with.

The public safety department then has to determine which of the crimes reported meet the classification of a “clery crime.” These crimes include murder, sex offenses, robbery, assault, theft, arson and arrests. Institutions are also required to report on people who violate liquor, drug and weapons laws. Crimes or bodily harm that relate to or are caused by hate crimes must also be reported on. 

For the Clery Act specifically, there’s an important distinction to be made of how many crimes were reported versus how many happened. 

“Please understand that the stats included relate to incidents that were reported in the given year, not which happened,” university spokesperson Carol Hughes said. “It would be incorrect, for example, to say there were three sexual assaults on campus in 2017. The accurate way of reporting this data would be that there were three sexual assaults on campus that were reported in 2017.”

Robert Stokes, an associate professor in the School of Public Service who specializes in public safety and security planning, believes that the Loop is fairly safe, regardless of what the public would expect. 

The Loop is the central business district in Chicago, which would make it seem like it would have a higher risk profile with more people to victimize and more transit stops for a criminal’s easy escape. But Stokes referred back to the Loop’s crime reports and noted that they remain particularly low. 

He also said that DePaul is relatively fortunate in regard to how safe it is. Stokes previously worked at other universities, including Drexel and Temple in Philadelphia, where campus security was heightened because of crime concerns. 

“DePaul is lucky,” Stokes said. “I worked at Temple and Drexel [Universities], which were located in really high crime neighborhoods, so they had to create uniform police departments at a really high cost.”

“Lincoln Park is one of those areas that is generally good, but a transient area for DePaul,” he added. “There are rich people, transit stops, and people who go to the bars and shopping that are in the mix, but it’s still in general for an urban space fairly safe. But zero crime? Certainly not.”