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Crime trends decline but the UWPD faces continuing issues

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Though this year has seen a reduction in crime numbers compared to those in 2017, the UWPD wrestles with a few ineffective strategies, especially in their approach to trespassers on campus.

Property crimes, or those not involving interactions with individuals, are down almost 28 percent for 2018 as a whole. Car prowls have had the most noticeable decrease at 51 percent and an even higher rate of 65 percent when compared to year-to-date data from 2016. 

However, the discussion at the Strategic Trend Analysis for Reducing Crime (STARC) meeting this past Wednesday, April 25, focused on correlated crimes.

For instance, car prowls and bike thefts have been inversely proportional. When bike theft numbers are high as they have been this year, the number of car prowls seem to go down.

Bike theft numbers for April alone have improved, dropping to just five compared to 16 in March and 14 last April. The rate of bike thefts as a whole, however, has still increased by 28 percent year-to-date. 

This yearly increase mirrors the trend seen in shoplifting. Frequency eventually drops back down, and the decrease in April indicates the already-slowing frequency of bike thefts. The department expects a continued decrease through May.

As bike theft numbers level out, the department predicts an increase in car prowls as the balance between the two crimes swings back the other way.

UWPD Chief John Vinson emphasized getting ahead of the trends when they have an idea of what’s coming.

“What have we been doing since last month?” Vinson asked. “What else, in terms of strategies between this month and last month, has changed? Is the deployment of our resources the most effective?”

These questions are particularly applicable to issues of trespassing.

As the weather improves, individuals trespassing on campus are less likely to be indoors. Trespasses decreased from 48 in March to just 15 in April. Likewise, trespass arrests decreased from nine to three. 

This doesn’t mean the trespassers have left campus; rather, UWPD officers anticipate more outdoor contacts with individuals in locations like the Parrington Lawn.

Of the 15 trespasses this past month, there were three repeat offenders. These individuals take advantage of campus buildings without “No Trespassing” signs. If they receive a verbal warning in one building, they can still get away with another warning as long as they’ve relocated to a different building.

In an incident this past month, a UWPD officer was physically assaulted by one trespassing individual. The person was described as aggressive from the outset, and struck an officer when the UWPD attempted to remove him from the UW libraries.

Violent situations like this are rare, though. This instance resulted in a ban from the UW libraries, but Vinson wants to see greater results the next time such an interaction occurs.

“Whenever we need them to comply and they assault one of our team members, we need to remove them from campus,” Vinson said.

However, the UWPD’s options for interacting with trespassers are limited. This is partially due to the open-campus policy, limited intervention resources for the officers to rely on, and the repeat offenders’ unwillingness to cooperate, even when multiple departments throughout the city offer aid.

Reach UWPD reporter Olivia Madewell at Twitter: @OliviaGMadewell

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