Editor’s note: The interview between The Michigan Daily and Diane Brown, Department of Public Safety Spokeswoman, occurred on Thursday, July 14, prior to the sexual assault incidents that occurred during the weekend of July 16. Her quotes refer specifically to larcenies and aggravated assaults that have happened during the course of the summer.
Despite numerous recent reports of crime in Ann Arbor, both the Ann Arbor Police Department and the University’s Department of Public Safety claim crime rates are in fact not on the rise.
Sgt. Mike Lance of the Ann Arbor Police Department said that while students may feel they have received an increased number of crime alerts — especially in light of a recent shooting that occurred on Thompson Street on July 1 and two sexual assaults that occurred near Community High School and on Greenwood Avenue this past weekend — in actuality crime rates in the city have been on the decline compared to years past.
Lance said the media has exaggerated crime in Ann Arbor, which has negatively shaped public perception of crime rates in the community.
“There’s probably more media attention, and there’s more reporting of (crimes),” Lance said. “I think (the media) does have an effect on the outlook on crime … I think it also makes people more aware of their surroundings.”
Lance said the University’s Department of Public Safety and AAPD engage in a cooperative relationship and support each other in handling crime, adding the collaboration is currently “better than it’s ever been.”
“We disseminate information to (DPS) more readily than we ever have,” Lance said. “We have a very cooperative effort both administrative and street wise, in terms of working together to solve crime.”
Diane Brown, DPS spokeswoman, said University Police work hard to ensure the campus remains safe at all times.
“The Department and the University are content that it’s a relatively safe environment —though there are crimes that occur, a number of the crimes are preventable,” Brown said.
Brown said larceny is the most prevalent crime on campus, adding that students should be aware that University libraries are open to the public, and should take responsibility of their personal possessions.
“If students and people can do a better job at keeping their belongings secure, then we would have less crime,” Brown said.
While theft is the most common campus crime, Brown said that personal crimes do occur and drinking may cause people to be more “vulnerable” and susceptible to situations where they may be endangered.
“Perpetrators see a more easily-targeted, vulnerable person, and then would try to rob them and rarely try to assault them,” Brown said. “Many of the assaults really are equally blamed on both sides … we rarely will see an unprovoked stranger attack.”
Brown said a range of measures is currently in place to assist students with preventing potentially dangerous situations, noting that DPS patrols certain areas of campus with extra control. She added students also receive numerous safety tips as part of the DPS video shown to new students at orientation, at the bottom of electronic crime alerts and on signs in public university places such libraries and recreation areas.
Ultimately, she said the issue lies in personal responsibility of University members in following the suggested safety measures.
“The problem isn’t that people aren’t being informed about this stuff — the problem is that they aren’t adhering to many of these safety precautions,” Brown said. “For the most part, I’m sure there are some people who are and they haven’t been victimized.”