Students, police officers discuss increase in crime alerts, preventative measures.
Due to a recent rise in the frequency of crime alerts UC Davis students receive from the UC Davis Police Department (UCDPD), many students are under the misconception that crime rates in Davis have increased heavily in the past year.
“[There were] maybe three to five [crime alerts] a quarter before,” said fourth-year human development major Elizabeth Dietz. “Now it’s like five or more.”
The rise in crime alerts is a byproduct of the UCDPD’s increased efficiency, according to UCDPD Chief of Police Matthew Carmichael. Due to its increasing campus-wide social network, the department is able to improve its methods of communication with students.
“The efficiency really has a lot to do with our outreach,” Carmichael said. “We devote a considerable amount of time and resources to ensuring that we are connected with our students.”
However, most students are unaware of the system’s increased efficiency, leading to the impression that crime in Davis is on a steady incline.
“I heard about someone getting robbed the other day in the Arboretum,” said second-year biochemistry major Kim Nguyen. “It’s kind of dangerous there because a lot of people use the bike path […] to commute. I don’t want to bike down the bike path anymore, so I have to ask my housemates to come pick me up. I definitely feel a little more unsafe.”
Because of the recent crime alerts regarding public masturbation and indecent exposures, some students also feel that sexual assault has become a much more frequent crime on campus. Furthermore, in recent years, UC Davis has had to take action against anti-Semitic and racist incidents, with various campus groups and organizations having served as targets of heinous hate crimes.
“I’m Jewish, so a lot of [the] stuff that happened last year at [the predominantly Jewish fraternity] Alpha Epsilon Pi, and the [incidents] with those cars that got vandalized this year [is relevant],” said fourth-year political science major Jack Mizes. “That also goes to show that other forms of bigotry […] still exist on this campus. Just because you have one isolated incident that gets more promotion from the administration doesn’t mean that these other things don’t exist until an occurrence happens.”
The UCDPD employs over 130 students through the Aggie Host Security Program. According to Carmichael, this program provides students with services designed to cater toward the safety of students, including Safe Ride, the transportation system that allows students a free and protected means of getting home.
“We’re a large student employer, so that gives us a good feel for what’s going on in the community,” Carmichael said. “[We’ve been] improving our Safe Ride services to keep students safe; we’re more efficient with that service. Last month, I think we [provided] about 5,000 rides for students.”
The student employees who are part of the department also work with Carmichael and his officers to make technological advances in the program, including improvements on the police alerts system.
“We’ve improved our technology, [so] students can request safe rides on their smartphones now, which is huge,” Carmichael said. “We’ve improved our technology with social media [and] we’re better at sending out our email notifications […] in a relatively timely fashion.”
Both the UC Davis Police and the Davis City Police are working to keep the safety of students and residents in check by talking to restaurant owners, bar owners and property owners. Recently, the UCDPD trained a bar owner on the use of metal detectors to prevent violence, while the Davis City Police has been active in communicating with residents on staying safe.
“We’re going through and talking to residents about what we can do to promote safety,” said Assistant Police Chief Darren Pytel. “We ask all the neighborhoods to participate in the neighborhood watch program.”
The Davis City Police have also implemented programs such as Nixel, a subscriber-based email system and the Everbridge Alert System, which allows people to receive emergency information.
Meanwhile, the UCDPD has developed a variety of systems specifically for student safety, including Safe Ride, Tipsy Taxi and the Guardian, which is a new smartphone application that tracks the owner to their destination.
“It turns your phone into a personal security,” Carmichael said. “If you don’t want to use Safe Ride, and you decide to walk on your own, you set who your guardian is — it could be a parent, a loved one, it could be the police department — and you hit a start button.”
If the user does not turn off the app once they reach their end location, alerts are sent to the user’s guardians.
“One mission we’re on right now is to look at top universities in the country and look at their downtown scene, and see what others are doing,” Carmichael said. “It’s going to be a team partnership between students and the police, so we’ll have a couple student representatives probably from ASUCD […] go visit these campuses [to] get a good picture of what’s going on there. My motto is, let’s see what everyone else is doing, and […] be better.”
With steps being taken toward crime prevention and the protection of Davis students and residents, both the campus and city police hope to see a safer environment in Davis’ future.
To students, residents and anyone else at risk of becoming a victim of crime, Pytel gives a word of advice: “Lock your doors, lock your stuff up and pay attention to your surroundings.”
Written by: Allyson Tsuji – email@example.com