In a show of transparency yesterday morning, the University’s Department of Public Safety invited members of the public to participate in one of the department’s internal weekly crime meetings.
Overall crime rates are down 30 percent compared to 2010 data —with 837 overall crimes reported at this time last year, compared to 585 this year. All the statistics represent crime on campus, where DPS has jurisdiction, according to DPS statistics.
There has been a general decline in campus crime, but an increase in aggravated assaults and arsons, DPS Executive Director Greg O’Dell said at the meeting yesterday morning.
Despite the series of sexual assaults that occurred in the summer and received extensive public attention, sexual assaults are down by 42 percent from last year. Twelve were reported at this time last year, compared to seven this year, O’Dell said. Also on the decline, the number of larcenies has dropped by about 32 percent from this time last year, and burglaries are down by 19 percent.
O’Dell said aggravated assaults are up by 50 percent from last year — from six to nine — and robberies have also increased by 14 percent — from seven to eight — since 2010. He also noted that arsons have increased from one incident last year to four so far this year.
O’Dell added that motor vehicle thefts have decreased by 31 percent — from 13 to 9 — since 2010. However, four cars have been stolen from University property in the past week.
Officials at the meeting also addressed laptops thefts in libraries and other buildings on campus. O’Dell said DPS regularly sends undercover officers into libraries to leave crime prevention tips on unattended laptops. He also said officers conduct surveillance and perform sting operations in high-traffic areas to catch thieves in the act.
In an interview after the meeting, O’Dell said he has been planning to have public crime meetings since the University hired him in August.
Though many students have left campus for the Thanksgiving holiday, O’Dell said he chose to hold the meeting yesterday at 8:30 a.m. in the Campus Safety Service Building on Kipke Drive because he wanted to start holding public meetings as soon as possible.
When most students have class or are still sleeping, O’Dell said 8:30 a.m. is the time that the meeting is regularly held for DPS officers, detectives and other campus safety officials without a public audience.
“We really wanted people to come in and look at what we’re doing and see the real thing,” O’Dell said.
O’Dell added that he is considering holding similar meetings at other times of day and at other locations on Central Campus or North Campus to make attending the meeting more convenient for students. There were about 20 visitors in attendance.
“I’m very open to making adjustments that would allow more people to attend and having it be more convenient for people, but we really wanted to get started on this project,” O’Dell said.
During the meeting, O’Dell told visitors that DPS has a strong relationship with the Ann Arbor Police Department, but AAPD did not have a representative present at yesterday’s meeting.
City Council member Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2), who was sworn in this week, attended the meeting. In an interview after the meeting, she said it was a strong showing of transparency by DPS.
“I’m not surprised that Chief O’Dell would be doing something like this,” Lumm said.
Lumm said she hopes the AAPD will be represented at future meetings, and that the University will send representatives to city meetings as well.
First year School of Public Health student Arielle Fleisher, one of only two students at the meeting, said she attended because she was recently punched in the face while walking alone in the Kerrytown area.
Fleisher said campus crime alerts are important, but she believes DPS should notify students more frequently about off-campus crimes.
“I think it’s really important that … the campus police department understands that they need to better alert students to what’s happening in the larger community,” Fleisher said.
Fleisher added that the University has a responsibility to prevent crime against students regardless of where incidents may occur.
“I get that their jurisdiction is University property, but a student is a student whether they’re here, or downtown, or on South (University Avenue),” Fleisher said. “That, I think, needs to be the prevailing definition of this department.”
Fleisher said she didn’t think DPS advertised the meeting well, but she said she would attend future meetings if the changes she publicly suggested to O’Dell are implemented.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article misspelled Arielle Fleisher’s name.