October 4, 2004
University crime statistics released
By Ray Delgado
The Department of Public Safety on Friday released its annual crime statistics report for 2003, which showed that while most indicators remained constant, there was a significant jump in the number of reported sex offenses that occurred on campus last year. The increase was due largely to a serial groper who grabbed women as he bicycled past them.
The statistics were released Friday in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act, a 1998 law that requires all college campuses to report statistical crime data. The on-campus statistics include incidents that occur within campus boundaries, including student and faculty residences. Non-campus statistics include incidents that occur at off-campus buildings and property owned or controlled by the university, including the Stanford Shopping Center, the Medical Center and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.
Although the statistics are helpful for students, faculty and staff who contemplate living or working at Stanford, Police Chief Laura Wilson of the Department of Public Safety said people should keep the figures in perspective to overall campus safety.
“Stanford is a relatively safe place to live and work, but people still need to be aware of their surroundings and take appropriate precautionary measures like locking their bike to a bike rack, locking their office and dorm-room doors, not allowing people into buildings after hours and reporting suspicious activity to the police in a timely manner,” Wilson said.
Although most of the university’s statistics showed little fluctuation over the past three calendar years, the number of “forcible sex offenses” reported to police jumped from four in 2002 to 38 in 2003, most of which were attributed to the groper, according to Wilson.
Thirty-one of the 38 reports of sexual assault were made by female victims who said they were groped by a man riding a bicycle who would typically ride up behind them, grab their bodies and then flee. The remaining seven included six reports of rape and one report of oral copulation.
All of the groping incidents occurred between May 22 and Oct. 30, 2003, and no incidents have been reported since.
Campus police detained a suspect shortly around the time of the last incident, but he was released because none of the victims could identify him in a lineup.
Although the suspect did not face charges in connection with the groping incidents, Wilson said there were no further reports after he was detained. “As soon as he was identified and interviewed by the police, we had no more reports of sexual batteries,” Wilson said.
The statistics also showed an increase in the number of reported rapes -- from three to six -- all of which were classified as “acquaintance rapes.” Five of the victims reported that they were assaulted within a dorm residence, and a sixth victim reported that she was assaulted outside a dorm residence, Wilson said. An additional eight incidents of forced sex offenses were reported to university counselors, but the victims chose not to report the incidents to police.
Wilson said it was impossible to tell if the jump in the rape numbers indicated an increase in the number of sexual assaults or a jump in the number of women who reported the incidents; many victims of acquaintance rape never report the crimes. It is possible that more women felt comfortable reporting the crime because of recent outreach by the Department of Public Safety in collaboration with Vaden Health Center and Residential Education officials. The outreach enlisted resident assistants and health educators, Wilson said.
“It could be that the message is going out that they should report it to the police,” Wilson said. “There was some indication that the police were [told] because of our outreach efforts during resident assistant training. We were trying to make the process of reporting not seem so scary.”
Wilson also cautioned students about the potential consequences of drinking too much.
“If I could send one message to students, it would be to make responsible choices around the use of alcohol,” Wilson said. “I know some students feel as though the administration spends too much time focusing on alcohol use by students, but the reality is that student misuse of alcohol can and does have tragic consequences. The vast majority of sexual assaults reported to the Stanford police have been undergraduate students who were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their assaults.”
Incidences of robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and theft remained consistent with past years. Wilson noted that more than 90 percent of the 35 motor vehicle thefts reported last year on campus involved golf carts that were stolen and usually recovered.
Incidents of liquor and weapons violations remained consistent with the past two years, while the number of drug violations dropped from 29 to 13 from 2002 to 2003. Wilson noted that many of the alcohol and drug violations do not involve students and may include high school students, visitors to the campus and outside community members.
The statistics are available in the Stanford Safety and Security Almanac at http://police.stanford.edu/crimestats.pdf. The almanac also includes safety tips; campus security contacts and resources; information on sexual assault; alcohol, drug and driving laws; emergency preparedness; bicycle safety and security; property protection; and pedestrian safety.
“My hope is that people won’t just pay attention to the statistics but take the time to read that document,” Wilson said, referring to the almanac. “Working together, we can make Stanford a safe place to live and work.”