In the last five years, the Department of Public Safety has seen a constant rise and fall in reported crimes.
There’s been fluctuation from 2010 to 2014, and trends by year are almost unpredictable, said Tony Callisto, Syracuse University’s chief law enforcement officer.
“There’s so many variables because it’s such a dynamic community. It’s a different community every single year,” he said.
While it’s hard to predict whether or not crime rates will go up or down, the amount of incidents averages at 745. The numbers reached its highest point for the last five years in 2012, with 755 incidents.
As crimes near the campus reached their peak that year, DPS felt a need to restructure itself. Jill Lentz, DPS’s interim chief, said the department focused on improving crime deterrence. Since 2012, the department has increased both the presence of officers and surveillance cameras.
“In 2012 we had a series of challenges associated with violent crimes in the near off-campus neighborhoods. Serious violent crimes,” Callisto said. By mid-October in 2012, there were four violent robberies, a gunshot heard on Marshall Street and a stabbing at the Carrier Dome.
As a response, DPS created the University Area Crime-Control Team, a joint effort with the Syracuse city police to increase patrol during nights from Thursday to Saturday night. It also consolidated its forces, putting more officers out on the streets rather than behind desks.
During the two years between 2012 and 2014, DPS focused on an intense campus-wide camera installation campaign. Currently, it has access to nearly 1,000 views of the university, with very few blind spots, Callisto said.
With approximately 750 security cameras spread across campus, a criminal would not be able to leave the campus without being caught on footage at least once, he said.
While crime trends by years are unpredictable, officers are seeing the same pattern for trends by months.
Crimes have remained at a moderate amount from January to May during the spring semester, dropped to their lowest points from May to August during the summer months and spiked up during August to November in the fall semester. This has been the exact same pattern for the last five years.
For the spring semester months, interim chief Lentz said she believes the number of reports is connected to weather and the amount of time students are on campus. It’s why the numbers always drop in March, when students are gone for a week during Spring Break, she said. The weather is also why crimes rise during April, when temperatures are also rising.
The Office of Off-Campus and Commuter Services usually receives most of its noise and party complaints from residents in the East Neighborhood during periods of nice weather, said Elin Riggs, the office’s director.
Criminal incidents during the summer months are always low for DPS because the majority of the campus population is away, Lentz said.
As the campus comes back to life in August, so does the crime. In the beginning of the fall semester, DPS officers will see an influx of thefts, alcohol violations, drug violations and party busts. Many times, the students involved in this influx are freshmen, Callisto said.
“Right from the first week of school right through Halloween, it’s peak experimentation for the new students, it’s certainly peak party time for returning students,” he said. “Because the weather and the atmosphere and the environment is just right.”
It’s why during the first eight weeks of the fall semester, DPS will dramatically increase the amount of officers it has out patrolling — more than any other time of the year.
The department is trying to change this trend, to make the numbers stay low all year long. Within the first three weeks of the semester, all freshmen will meet a DPS officer during floor meetings to learn about safety tips and warnings. Officers are usually encouraging students to lock their doors to decrease thefts — the most common crime at SU.
George Athanas, an assistant director at the Office of Residence Life, said resident advisers also often have a hard time getting freshmen to lock their doors when they leave.
“Larceny is the most common crime because it’s generally pretty easy to commit,” Callisto said. “It’s also the most preventable crime.”