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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Opinion

Don’t completely blame the Third Ward for crime


crime on campus

Many students perceive the Third Ward as being a negative influence to crime on campus | Esteban Portillo/The Cougar

As a freshman, I was told not to shop at the H-E-B near campus because it was in Third Ward and therefore dangerous. Frankly, these warnings and apprehensions are not totally unfounded, since the Third Ward was ranked the fifteenth most dangerous area in the U.S.

Many students believe that UH’s proximity to Third Ward is a negative influence on crime on campus. Without evidence, this is a common assumption.

According to annual campus crime reports, the crime rate has decreased on campus. However, Rice University has significantly less crime although it is less than half an hour away. UH’s current crime rate is similar to that of the University of Texas at Austin.

Looking at this data, it’s no surprise students believe that UH’s proximity to Third Ward is the cause of crime.

“Proximity and opportunity are two significant factors,” Lt. Bret Collier said. “Of the arrests made by UHPD over the last five years, roughly two-thirds of those arrested were not directly affiliated with UH. So for one-third of those arrested, the proximity question is answered. They are on campus legitimately when they commit a crime.”

In other words, one-third of crime on campus is caused by those who are somehow invited on campus, or otherwise affiliated with UH.

As for the other two-thirds, crime comes from outside of campus. However, we have no concrete evidence to claim that it’s because of Third Ward. Yes, it’s near campus, and some might see this as an easy opportunity to commit crime. But just because something is likely, doesn’t mean that’s actually the case.

“We know that they arrive to campus any number of ways, and we have seen criminals from all over the greater Houston area,” Collier said.

In reality, it’s difficult to determine the primary source of crimes committed on the UH campus, as neither HPD nor UHPD specifically tracks the sources of crime. Alexander Bunin, Chief Public Defender for Harris County, is also not able to disclose information beyond what is released in the press.

In other words, there’s insufficient evidence to show that crime on campus is primarily a result of UH’s proximity to Third Ward, as opposed to other areas of Houston.

But perception is powerful.

“I do think the Third Ward is one source of crime on campus,” political science post-graduate Mary Garcia said. “UH’s location allows for students and their belongings to become easily accessible targets… UH students are targeted for crime much more frequently than other Houston universities such as Rice.”

Many students believe that Third Ward is the primary source of crime on campus, but this perception is two-fold. Some students believe that Third Ward is a negative influence on UH, and others believe that UH is a positive influence on Third Ward. Some think it’s an unbalanced relationship.

But it’s not as if UH is purely a positive force on the Third Ward community.

The city takes what it defines as “blighted property,” and attempts to give the property a new purpose or value. Although there’s a plethora of factors, lower-income families are displaced and replaced by residents that are wealthier, thus gentrifying the area.

UH is not in a parasitic relationship with Third Ward. There is harm that comes along with the benefits of Third Ward’s proximity to UH.

Research professor Larry Hill of the Graduate College of Social Work also thinks that crime comes from sources other than Third Ward, but that it receives most of the blame for crime on campus.

Until more concrete information explicitly stating Third Ward is a primary cause for crime on campus is found, students should withhold their judgment.

Beware of the harm that can result from assumptions made — myself included.

Assistant opinion editor Sarah Kim is a political science senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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