Crime stats mislead

At first glance at the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program statistics for 2008, Mercyhurst College appears to have double the crime rates of other local colleges.

Of the 239 Part 1 offenses reported by Erie County colleges, Edinboro University had 51, Penn State Behrend had 29, Gannon University had 44 and Mercyhurst had 115. Part 1 crimes include rape, robbery, assault and burglary.

Kenneth Sidun, chief of Police and Safety at Mercyhurst, said these statistics are misleading.

“It’s because we combine North East and West campus with main campus for UCR reports,” Sidun said.

When broken down, Mercyhurst’s statistics are closer to the average crime numbers for college campuses. The North East campus accounted for 47 of the reported offenses, bringing the main campus numbers down to 68.

“We have more students living on campus and more buildings. In comparison with other colleges we’re about average,” Sidun said.

Mercyhurst had 1,880 residents on the main campus in 2008 and more residence buildings than most other colleges in the county.

As for general crime statistics from last year, Mercyhurst’s annual Clery report cited more burglaries and drug related violations than previous years, but showed significantly less liquor law violations on campus in 2008.

Sidun had no explanation for why liquor law violations dropped from 393 in 2007 to 234 in 2008.

“I have no idea. I was surprised when I saw that,” Sidun said.

To protect themselves from theft, Sidun encourages students to lock their doors and take valuables home with them.

“Take your credit card numbers, jewelry, laptops and other valuables home over breaks. Make sure you don’t leave them in your room,” Sidun said.

Having records of serial numbers of iPods, laptops and other electronics is critical in helping police recover these items if they are stolen.

“How many Dell notebooks are there out there? How many Apple notebooks are there out there? Without those numbers nobody can track it,” Sidun said.

Sidun thinks there have been fewer Part 1 crimes this year than at this time last year.

Despite this, students don’t always feel safe at night on campus.

“I don’t feel 100 percent safe walking across campus at night. Other than that, I do,” sophomore Kelly Clymer said.

“I often walk home late at night from the library, and although the installation of blue lights makes me feel safer, any other services that the college could provide to increase our safety would be appreciated and are always helpful,” senior Beth Boyd said.

“We’re trying to make students aware of how to protect themselves and their property. If you see somebody suspicious, call Police and Safety and we’ll come over and investigate. That’s our job,” Sidun said.