Third Ward crime on a steady decline
Crime around campus has always been a concern to students, faculty and prospective students. However, over the past few years the UH Police Department, as well as the Houston Police Department, have been working to reduce crime rates in the area. The results are starting to show, as crime rates around UH have been decreasing since 2006.
“We continually evaluate the types of crime that are affecting our community and adjust our patrol and investigation methods to address those issues,” said Bret Collier, UHPD lieutenant and chief of staff. “We have seen a dramatic change in campus geography and population over the past five years, which changes the way we have to look at statistics over that period.”
According to Houston Police Department’s Uniform Crime Summary, there were approximately 991 total violent and non-violent crimes in 2013 in the area around UH (which is classified as police beat 10H50). In 2006, there were approximately 1,428 violent and non-violent crimes in the area. In other words, there were 437 more crimes in 2006 than in 2013.
“As the residential population has increased, so have our policing and security efforts,” Collier said. “We now have 52 commissioned police officers, 110 security officers and over 1,200 cameras across campus dedicated to the safety and security of the University area and community.”
Since 2006, the area surrounding UH has seen a decline in crime rates. Of all the years since 2006, 2012 and 2013 have had the lowest total crime rates.
“The area around UH is much better now than it was in the ’70s and ’80s,” advertising professor Michael Strickland said.
Some of the drops in crime rate may be related to the fact that UH, the City of Houston and other private companies are cleaning up the area through construction. A prime example of this is The Vue apartment complex off South MacGregor Way and Calhoun Road, which will be open to UH residents in August.
Other companies like Fountain Residential Partners and Aspen Heights, who have decided to build off-campus boutique dorms in the area, are receiving tax abatements and government support for building in a high poverty area.
“I really wasn’t going to even consider UH as an option for college because I thought that UH was in a really bad area,” prospective student Monica Stiller said. “I am starting to change my mind, however, because I think that the area is really cleaning up.”
Although crime rates have been declining in the area around UH, they are still relatively high compared to other areas in Houston.
“While some of the crimes around campus could be prevented with awareness of one’s surroundings, the fact that the campus is located in the Third Ward of a city with no zoning laws makes it almost impossible to prevent fully,” said theater graduate student Amanda Clark.
UHPD urges students and faculty to be sensible while on and around campus. Students and faculty should be aware of their surroundings at all times. It is also advised that students should not walk alone late at night.
Like UHPD, Strickland advises students to be smart on campus.
“I tell my students to never walk alone around the campus,” Strickland said.
Lt. Collier said he believes crime happens on and around campus due to certain factors and opportunities.
“There are several factors that need to be present for crime to occur, and one of those is opportunity,” said Collier. “UHPD works to reduce the opportunity for crime through proactive patrol, elimination of security deficiencies and community awareness initiatives such as safety presentations, crime alerts and security escorts.”
According to the UCR stats, between 2006 and 2013 auto-theft crimes had dropped by more than 50 percent. In 2006 there were 148 cases of auto-theft, in 2009 there were 97 auto-theft cases and in 2013 there were 68 auto-theft cases.
While crime rates around campus seem to be declining in the past few years, certain crimes on campus seem to be increasing. According to UHPD annual crime reports, in 2010 there were 14 burglaries and in 2012 there were 87. Students remain concerned, as crime exists on campus.
Former post-bachelorette biology student Amy Babanto is still taking precautions.
“I try to never carry money or my electronics,” Babanto said, “just in case an incident should occur.”