Theft the highest crime at UCF, Fla. universities
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement recently released its 2014 Unified Crime Reports, which show the biggest crime that state universities face is larceny.
Larceny, or the theft of personal property, usually encompasses lower-risk situations, such as a purse being stolen from an unoccupied car.
At UCF, there were 345 larceny offenses — 83 percent of the UCF Police Department's total crime. At Florida State there were 290 larceny offenses, 78 percent of total crime; at the University of Florida there were 554 offenses, 91 percent of total crime; and at South Florida there were 331 offenses, 85 percent of total crime.
"At a glance, when you consider the growth in the area and the size of the population that we serve, I think that anybody would conclude what I do: This is a very safe campus," UCF Chief of Police Richard Beary said in a previous interview with the Central Florida Future.
Campus police departments agreed that theft is their biggest concern.
"I've been here 23 years and it's always been theft, theft, theft," said Major Jim Russel, deputy chief of police at FSU, who advised students to be aware of leaving belongings in their cars or residence hall rooms because they are oftentimes stolen.
"Typically this is theft of opportunity. Items are left unsecured … or secured improperly," said Major Brad Barber of the UF Police Department.
Separate crimes of robbery and burglary saw lower numbers, with UCF reporting five and 29, respectively, FSU reporting three and 46, UF reporting one and 28 and USF reporting three and 37.
To combat these crimes, universities have adapted specialized programs.
Barber said the police department at UF has specialized assignments for theft cases. It uses plain-clothes operations, during which officers dress out of uniform in areas where crime occurs. Officers also study specific trends in what items are stolen and when and where the crime occurs.
At FSU's police department, officers have much of the same rituals, Russel said. Like those at UF, officers use plain-clothes operations and patrol in high-crime areas.
"If they see a marked police car, they'll straighten up until the cops drive away," Russel said about people who act suspicious. "If someone is loitering and prowling, we can get up close to them and stop and watch or intervene."
Bicycle theft is also priority for UCF PD, which set up a bait bike program in 2011.
The GPS-equipped bikes are left around campus, and officers are notified when one is stolen.
Although bicycle theft has remained high for years at UF, Barber said in the last 10 years, electronics have become the new principal targets for criminals.
After larceny and burglary, UCF's highest crime was forcible rape.
There were 14 offenses in 2014 — a 23 percent increase from 2013 when there were 11.
This is also double the number of forcible rape offenses at the other Florida schools.
Beary says alcohol continues to play a huge role in sexual assault crimes.
"If you knew how many sexual assault cases that we've seen where people go out as a group and all of a sudden somebody gets left alone and they're intoxicated, they're impaired," he said. "Nothing good is going to come out of that."
Deanna Ferrante is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.