Cal Poly students uneasy with the news that an attempted robbery and sexual assault allegedly took place at an apartment on Leff Street Tuesday should remember that Cal Poly is one of the safest campuses in the California State University system, according to University Police Chief Bill Watton.
The San Luis Obispo Police Department apphrended and charged a suspect with assault, while he was allegedly in possession of the stolen property.
Though the number of sexual assaults reported has increased in the last three years, there has been an overall decrease in the annual number of violent offenses.
The Jeanne Clery Act statistics, released every year by federal mandate on Oct. 1, are timed to get attention ahead of midterms and finals, said Fred Mills, administrative analyst with the university police. They mainly track violent crimes recognized universally in all 50 states.
“Most campuses have adequate enforcement. Some are better than others, but statistically speaking we’re still a very safe campus,” Watton said. “Almost no matter where students come from, they’re safer here on campus statistically. We’re doing well here.”
While the department charged with guarding public safety might be expected to project a confident image, numbers reported to the FBI, which follows slightly different guidelines than the Clery Act, seem to back up the assertion.
Both sets of data show that Cal Poly San Luis Obispo suffers fewer violent crimes, including rape, robbery, burglary and assault than do comparable schools in the CSU system.
CSU Chico, which has a slightly smaller student body but is similar to Cal Poly in size and city community, reported 27 on-campus offenses last year compared to Cal Poly’s 24. Both showed fluctuations in individual categories but remained generally consistent with the previous year.
“Stats don’t tell you everything,” said Mills. “There are many variables that go into the outcome every year. Often a series of burglaries, for example, is reported as individual crimes when in fact there is one perpetrator. When we catch someone the numbers go down.”
Similarly misleading is the interpretation of low numbers, Watton said. With a student body hovering around 20,000, an increase of one sex crime reported in 2007 reads as 25 percent increase over the year before, or as a total of five events in such a large population.
“It’s a combination of factors. Because the numbers are just so low that they tend to fluctuate by larger degrees,” he said. “I can’t tell you why exactly they rise, but they may be remaining constant with more being reported.”
For more information, visit the Cal Poly University Police Department website at www.police.calpoly.edu or call (805) 756-2281.