Belmont experienced a slight decrease in reported on-campus crime in 2014, in line with an overall trend statewide.
On Monday, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released its 2014 Crime on Campus report, which contains the total number of reported offenses sent in by campus security offices from across the state.
The TBI reported a 6.3 percent decrease in crimes reported on college campuses from 2013 to 2014. The total number of reported offenses at Belmont dropped from 127 to 101.
Only offenses that occur on campus are reported. Any off-campus offenses related to a school are reported by the local police department.
However, data alone by no means is a reason to not educate students on how to deal with crime, said Chief of Campus Security Pat Cunningham.
“Our goal is always to be proactive. I think a lot of the things we do with education awareness, like the bystander intervention program, is really targeted to prevent that crime from ever happening,” he said.
Sexual assault is one area addressed in the TBI report. While reported crime decreased in general last year, the report found a 74.5 percent increase in the category of “Sexual Offenses – Forcible.”
This includes the number of reported cases of forcible rape, sodomy, fondling and sexual assault with an object.
Belmont had two reported cases of forcible sexual assault last year, the same number as it did in 2013.
“I do think we’ll see the stats go up in the area of sexual assaults, not because we’re anticipating there will be an increase in sexual assaults, but we do think we may see an increase in people willing to come forward and report, and that’s a good thing,” said Cunningham.
While it will be difficult to know whether or not there’s an actual increase or decrease in sexual assaults, Cunningham reiterated how education in areas like bystander intervention training, Title IX education and self-defense training will project the idea that victims have a caring community to fall back on.
“The more we get people to come forward, the better the chance we can identify those individuals and to be able to target them to address the situation as opposed to never having been aware that we had a predator,” said Cunningham.
Cunningham also cited the number of “Larceny/Theft” offenses as an example of where education awareness is needed. “Larceny/theft” is the most common offense reported on college campus nationwide.
In 2014, there were 40 thefts reported to Campus Security, slightly down from the 45 reported in 2013.
Because theft is the most frequent offense on campus, there are likewise programs to encourage students to be better about securing their property.
This, in turn, would deter would-be thieves from viewing Belmont as a place of opportunity, said Cunningham. He used bicycle theft as an example.
“We know that most of those are bicycles that were either left unsecure or were secured with a poor-quality chain or cable,” he said. “So one of things we embarked on last year was the idea of an educational awareness campaign to get people to use better-quality locks.”
With this in mind, Campus Security is working with the Office of Residence Life to have better-quality bike locks available through the Belmont University Marketplace. The Marketplace is run by Res Life as a resource for products to improve the student housing experience.
“If every bicycle had a high-quality lock, bicycle thieves wouldn’t come out here looking for a bike to steal,” Cunningham said.
While the yearly TBI report is certainly helpful, Cunningham said Campus Security usually knows the previous year’s data by January.
Campus Security also checks weekly data from Metro Police to see if there are any crime trends in the Belmont area so Campus Security can respond accordingly.
“If there’s a pattern, particularly something that’s emerging in the Midtown precinct area, that’ll be identified on a weekly basis,” Cunningham said. “If it’s something we pick up at the end of the month, we go ‘Wait a minute, there seems to be a pattern here.’ Then we go ahead and address that.”