The UCF Police Department released its annual crime report for 2015 on Feb. 10, reporting an overall decrease in all major offenses, including violent, domestic and property offenses, and citing the help of the UCF community and intelligence-led policing as factors in decreasing crime rates on campus.
Violent offenses decreased by a total of 31 percent, with an overall decrease in rape and robbery, property offenses decreased by a total of 23 percent and domestic violence offenses decreased by 25 percent.
“I am a big believer in intelligence-led policing and that’s what we do,” said UCF Police Chief Richard Beary. “We constantly look at what’s going on around us to adjust our man power deployment, and try to put our people at the right place at the right time.”
By working with local law enforcement agencies, UCFPD has been able to proactively identify crime trends to adjust law enforcement tactics.
“We work together on a daily basis and our analysts work together literally several times a day,” said the chief, adding that UCF is the originator and continues to be the hub of a data network called Finder, which helps different agencies share information.
At UCF, the department’s most significant partner in safety is the UCF community. By staying alert and reducing crime opportunities, Beary said students and faculty can help lower larceny offenses, which saw a 28 percent decrease last year but continue to be one of the biggest challenges on campus.
“We need the continued support of the student body because most of the thefts that we see are cell phones, tablets and other things of that nature,” he said. “And more importantly, it’s about reducing opportunities. If we’re all smarter and pay more attention, the people that seek to commit crimes are going to go somewhere else. That’s just how bad guys work, they go where the find the least amount of resistance and most amount of opportunity.”
UCF PD spokeswoman Courtney Gilmartin added that larceny offenses are generally the top crime at any university.
"Students are our partners in safety," she said. "It’s on everybody to keep these numbers low."
The department has been able to keep criminal offenses down at UCF, despite a growing population.
“There’s more opportunity now than there ever was with more students being here,” Chief Beary said. “One of the things I like to talk about is that we are the second-largest city in Central Florida. Look at us as a city and compare our crime numbers and population with other Central Florida cities, and tell me if we have a safe campus.”
One of the most significant changes reflected in the report is the number of rape offenses, which went down by 57 percent from 14 in 2014 to six last year.
However, Chief Beary said that the numbers also reflect a change in the protocol for reporting rape offenses, which was determined to include only those offenses taking place on UCFPD jurisdiction.
The change, which is being implemented for the first time this year, aims to reflect a more accurate depiction of the rape offenses occurring on campus and to align the reporting with the procedure for all other offenses, which is strictly limited to UCF jurisdiction.
“We can clearly say the numbers in this report are offenses that happened on our property and were reported for the purpose of prosecution,” Chief Beary said. “Going forward, the intent is to be definitive of what’s happening on our campus.”
Due to the university’s holistic approach toward sexual assault cases, Gilmartin said that it can be challenging to find an accurate depiction of the number of cases just from the police reports.
“There are so many options that victims have, and we as a university never back them into one or the other,” she said. “We are very conscious not to re-traumatize anyone that has been the victim of assault and letting them choose the option that is most appropriate for them.”
However, out of the sexual assault cases that have been reported to UCFPD for prosecution, the agency has been able to test all of its rape kits on file, which can be uncommon for law enforcement offices.
“We don’t store them, we actively pursue all of those cases even though a lot of them might not get prosecuted for a variety of reasons … we still work them as a prosecuted case,” said the chief, adding that he is a strong believer in a victim-centered approach when it comes to these cases.
“You have to do what the victim thinks is in their best interest. You have to,” he said. “And unfortunately sometimes, in the criminal justice system, we forget about the victim, but you have to stay victim-centered.”
Although the number of arrests accounted in the report generally went down, this is thought to be a reflection of lowered crime rates. In the breakdown of total arrests, the number of female arrests increased by 9.8 percent, which Chief Beary said usually tend to be due to DUI’s and underage drinking.
UCFPD is currently holding recruitment to expand its task force and will work toward increasing educational programs for students in the future.
“Our goal is to not only lower the numbers, but also increase the programs that we offer to students,” Chief Beary said. “I’d really love to increase the opportunities for students and the educational programs so that when our students leave here and go into the world, they’re more prepared to deal with the issues that are out there. It would help us all in society down the road.”
Daniela Marin is a digital producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @dan__marin or email her at DanielaM@CentralFloridaFuture.com.