Bike thefts rose, car and building burglaries fell in 2009

While the number of campus burglaries dropped in 2009, Police Chief Laura Wilson urged the Stanford community to report – not rationalize – suspicious behavior, such as a stranger rummaging through an office or loitering in a building.

L.A. Cicero Bryan Hooi, Huy Nguyen and Desmond Lim

Incoming freshmen from Singapore, Bryan Hooi, left, and Desmond Lim, right, were helped by Huy Nguyen '13, as they gathered the information to register bikes on move-in day.

Last year, thieves stole 375 bicycles from the campus and from nearby university buildings and properties – a slight increase from 2008, according to the 2010 Stanford University Safety, Security & Fire Report.

About half of the total – or 190 bikes – vanished near student residences, including dorms, row houses, fraternities and sororities, the report said.

While the total number of bike thefts reported was higher than the previous year, when 353 bicycles disappeared at Stanford, Police Chief Laura Wilson said the department was relieved that the number wasn't higher, given the state of the economy.

"We have a graph in our office that shows that when unemployment is high, bike theft is high," she said. "Historically, we have seen an increase in property crimes when the economy is stressed."

Preventing bicycle thefts

Wilson advises students to buy inexpensive – but safe – bicycles, since they are less likely to be stolen.

The Campus Bike Shop, located in Tresidder Union, also has advice:

  • Register your bike. If it is stolen, a bike can be returned if it's recovered.
  • Make your bike unique by spray-painting it. The bike shop offers free spray paint, gloves and a mask for those who would like to thwart would-be thieves with art.
  • Cover your bike with stickers.
  • Write your name on your bike using nail polish.
  • Replace quick-release wheels with "security skewers" to discourage wheel theft. Secure the seat to the frame with a seat cable.
  • Use U-locks to secure bicycles to bike racks.

Crime statistics are a small part of the annual report   

The report presents statistics for the last three calendar years on more than a dozen crimes, including bike thefts, burglaries, rapes and violations of alcohol, drug and weapons laws. It also contains information on campus fires from 2007 to 2009. In addition, for the first time, the report includes numbers for domestic violence and stalking.

The crime statistics account for only four pages of the 67-page report, which is primarily devoted to outlining safety and security guidelines, and the university policies and programs designed to keep Stanford a safe place to learn, work and live.

The report provides statistics for those crimes specified by the federal law known as the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act.

Wilson said she hopes faculty, staff and students will take the time to read the report, which offers detailed instructions on promoting personal safety, protecting personal property and preventing crime.

"Safety and security are community issues," she said.

The department has a long tradition of community outreach programs, and the report encourages people to schedule events for departments, labs, groups and student residences. Among the activities the department offers:

  • Security Presentations
  • Dialogue with a Deputy
  • Ride-Along Program
  • Group Centric (presentations designed for individual groups)
  • Building Threat and Vulnerability Assessment Program
  • Bicycle Programs
  • Community Police Academy

Property crimes fell last year

The report noted that the number of building burglaries – defined as the unlawful entry into a building or other structure with the intent to commit a felony or a theft – dropped to 151 in 2009, compared with 186 in 2008 and 141 in 2007.

Wilson encouraged people to report – not rationalize – suspicious behavior to police, such as a stranger rummaging through an office or loitering in a building. A quick report gives campus police the chance to catch burglars on their first attempt.

"A lot of people come back repeatedly if they don't get caught the first time," she said.

Wilson said burglars target two types of items in buildings: office equipment; and unattended personal property, including wallets, purses, laptops and backpacks.

The report said the number of car burglaries dropped 53 percent last year to 57, compared with 122 car burglaries in 2008. In 2007, there were 106 car burglaries. As in the past, thieves stole GPS units and personal items – wallets, purses, backpacks and laptops.

Wilson attributed the drop, in part, to the police department's outreach efforts and to quick action by members of the Stanford community who alerted police to suspicious behavior. She said the department also apprehended some thieves through surveillance.

The report said 10 golf carts and five cars were stolen last year on campus, an area that encompasses academic and research buildings, residences, the Medical Center and the Dish area. The 2009 total represents a 60 percent decline from 2008, when 38 vehicles – 28 golf carts and 10 cars – went missing. In 2007, thieves stole 28 golf carts and 9 cars.

Sexual offenses

The report said there were 12 forcible sexual offenses reported to university officials in 2009, including seven in student residences. In 2008, 10 forcible sexual offenses were reported, compared with 12 in 2007. Sexual offenses include any sexual act directed against another person, forcibly or against his or her will, including rape, sodomy, sexual assault with an object and forcible fondling.

In 2009, five forcible rapes were reported to campus police, including three that occurred in student residences. In 2008, there were three forcible rapes, compared with eight in 2007.

The report includes detailed information on how to prevent sexual assaults, as well as comprehensive lists of the campus resources available to victims, including the YWCA Sexual Assault Center at Stanford and the Counseling and Psychological Services program at Vaden Health Center.

Wilson said sexual assault tends to be an underreported crime.

"We have reason to believe more sexual offenses are taking place on campus than are being reported to university sources, based on the stories that students tell us," she said.

Domestic violence and stalking

The report said there were seven incidents of domestic violence in 2009. Six of those incidents occurred on campus. One incident occurred off campus in a nearby university building or property.

Wilson said the department began tracking domestic violence and stalking in response to requests from members of the Stanford community. The report includes a list of resources for victims of the crimes, which, like sexual assaults, tend to be underreported.

Drug and alcohol arrests

In 2009, police made 113 arrests for underage drinking and other violations of liquor laws, compared with 62 arrests in 2008 and 81 arrests in 2007. The numbers include arrests of students and non-students.

Wilson attributed the increase in arrests to two factors: The police department is now fully staffed and more officers have been assigned to weekend shifts.

"We changed the staffing to increase the number of people working on weekends because so many student parties were being disrupted by people who had not been invited to the party and who were stealing from students," Wilson said.

The report recommended that students visit Vaden Health Center's Wellness and Health Promotion Services program for advice on healthy decisions about drinking behaviors that affect themselves and the campus community.

Last year, police arrested 47 people, including students and non-students, for violating drug laws, compared with 44 people in 2008 and 35 people in 2007. Wilson said most of the arrests were related to marijuana use.

Hate crimes

In 2009, there were two incidents of hate crimes, defined as crimes in which the victim is intentionally selected because of actual or perceived race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability.

The report said one incident was a hate-related vandalism characterized by religion and the other was a hate-related battery characterized by sexual orientation. In 2008, there was one report of a hate crime, compared with one report in 2007.

Fire log

The report said there were 33 fires in student residences from 2007 to 2009. No one was injured in the fires, most of which occurred in kitchens. Most of them caused less than $1,000 worth of damage. The list of causes included burned food, overheated pots, grease fires and a stovetop fire.