Temple Main Campus crime dropped during pandemic

The 46-percent drop came as most of the on-campus population went home during COVID-19.

Temple’s Campus Safety Services building is located on 12th Street near Montgomery Avenue. Crime on Temple Main Campus fell 46% after shifting to remote operations. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Crimes reported to Temple University’s Campus Safety Services on Main Campus fell by about 46 percent from 2019 to 2020 as the university shifted to primarily remote operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the university’s 2021 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report published on Sept. 29.

The report summarizes the number of crimes and fires reported to Temple on or near its campuses — including international ones — in the past three years. The university released the report in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, a law requiring universities that receive federal funding to publish crime statistics annually.

Temple expected crime rates to plummet during the pandemic because there were fewer students living on or near campus, meaning there were less people around to commit crimes, said Charles Leone, director of Campus Safety Services. 

Crime may have also fallen in 2020 because Temple installed more card readers at the front security desks of on-campus buildings, which prevented people from getting into on-campus buildings to commit crimes, like robberies, Leone said. Additionally, despite less people being on campus, the facilities management team maintained the university’s physical appearance, which discouraged crimes like vandalism, one of the top offenses in 2019, Leone added.

“The campus was clean, it didn’t have a look of not being utilized,” Leone said. “We sometimes worry about if it looks like underutilized property because that may play into crime in that area.”

Reports of Clery Act crimes at universities across the city fell from 2019 to 2020 as local schools pivoted to primarily remote operations. Drexel University reported seven percent fewer offenses at its University City campus and La Salle University reported 30 percent fewer offenses at its main campus. The University of Pennsylvania reported a two percent increase at its main campus.

Campus Safety Services did not decrease its patrols of Main Campus in 2020, despite anticipating the decline in crime rates, in case the smaller on-campus population left students more vulnerable to being targeted, Leone said. 

“I wanted to be ahead of the curve and make sure we had enough patrol out there so that wouldn’t happen,” Leone said. “If you’re walking down campus, it’s well lit and you see an officer on a bike, you’re going to be safer, not just feel safer.”

The report’s findings encompass crimes that occurred in on-campus buildings, like residence halls, as well as in buildings Temple operates for non-educational purposes and on public property adjacent to campus, which includes sidewalks, streets and parking facilities. The report does not include a majority of offenses that occurred in the neighborhood surrounding Main Campus. 

Here is how crime changed in 2020. 

Clery Act crimes

Temple reported 42 Clery Act crimes in 2020 — a decrease from the 77 reported in 2019 — despite reporting an increase in rape offenses and the first manslaughter by negligence offense since at least 2013. 

The report of manslaughter by negligence involved a man arrested for driving under the influence and vehicular homicide in October 2020 after crashing his car into another vehicle, killing the woman in the passenger seat, Leone wrote in an email to The Temple News. The man and victim were not affiliated with the university.

The Clery Act crimes reported in 2020 were not motivated by bias against the victim. Temple reported four separate hate crimes in 2020 — three instances of intimidation and one of property damage — which is significantly fewer than the 11 reported in 2019, the highest since at least 2014, The Temple News reported

At the beginning of 2020, Campus Safety Services prioritized reducing the number of robberies on campus after seeing an uptick in December 2019. As the year progressed, the department also noticed reports of motor vehicle theft often resulted from the rising popularity of food delivery services, Leone said. 

“If I’m a driver for one of the delivery organizations, I pull up to one of the restaurants and leave my car running while I run inside to get the order, and it takes me a couple minutes while getting the order, somebody could see my car running and then get in and drive away,” he said.

Reports of robbery fell from 28 offenses in 2019 to nine in 2020, while reports of motor vehicle theft fell from nine in 2019 to six in 2020. 

Temple also reported its first two arson offenses on Main Campus since 2013. The offenses involved teenagers setting trash cans on fire and occurred within two days of each other in May 2020, Leone said. 

Relationship violence crimes

There were 20 offenses related to dating violence reported in 2020, which is a 41 percent decline from 2019. 

Although relationship violence declined overall, reports of domestic violence were one of the only crime categories to increase, climbing from four offenses in 2019 to 10 offenses in 2020. Domestic violence refers to any crime committed by someone the victim is in a current or former relationship with, living with the victim or shares a child with the victim. 

Reports of domestic violence rose throughout 2020, potentially because COVID-19 quarantine and isolation measures prevented victims from leaving their homes and complicated others’ abilities to intervene in abusive living situations, said Andrea Seiss, Temple’s Title IX coordinator. 

“People were isolating in a situation where they may be living in an abusive situation, or a physically abusive or sexually abusive situation, that was exacerbated during this period of time when we had to be so isolated from others,” Seiss said.

Nine of the 10 domestic violence offenses reported in 2020 occurred in public spaces adjacent to Main Campus, meaning they did not necessarily involve individuals affiliated with Temple, Leone said. 

“We’ve had people that were involved in a relationship, and because they were on a public highway — whether they came from the subway or the bus, or walking along the street — and officers got involved even though it might not be student or staff related,” Leone said.

Besides relationship violence offenses, reports of rape increased from five offenses in 2019 to seven in 2020. 

The increase in rape offenses may result from students reporting sexual misconduct more frequently than in previous years, rather than rape becoming more prevalent on campus, Leone said. 

Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented Temple’s Title IX Office from offering its usual in-person programming, the office provided students with information about reporting sexual misconduct and prevention virtually through Zoom events and direct emails to victims, Seiss said. The visibility of information about the reporting process, along with the international attention movements against sexual abuse have gained in recent years, may have made students feel more comfortable reporting rape, she added. 

Drugs, alcohol and weapons violations

Temple reported 225 referrals, disciplinary actions and arrests for violations of drug, liquor and weapons laws in 2020, which is 200 fewer than in 2019. 

Of the reports, 213 were liquor law violation referrals, disciplinary actions and arrests. 

Main Campus residence halls were significantly less crowded throughout 2020 because of COVID-19 safety protocols, with many students returning home at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. About 3,400 students returned to residence halls for the Fall 2020 semester, but only 1,250 remained when the university transitioned back to primarily remote instruction just two weeks into the semester, The Temple News reported.

The report does not include a summary of the liquor law violation referrals, disciplinary actions and arrests made among students living off campus outside of Temple’s Clery geography. 

Non-Clery Act crimes

Temple reported 436 offenses of crimes outside of the required Clery categories, which is an approximately 45-percent decline from 2019. 

The Non-Clery Act crime category includes lower level offenses Temple is required to report under the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting Act, like harassment, theft and drunkenness. Non-Clery Act crimes accounted for about 60 percent of the reports Campus Safety Services received in 2020. 

As in pre-pandemic years, theft, harassment and vandalism were the top non-Clery Act crimes reported in 2020, with 133, 110 and 65 reports for each category, respectively. 

The decline in harassment came after Temple reported 194 offenses in 2019, the highest since at least 2013.

Like in 2019, many of the harassment offenses Temple reported occurred virtually, like through social media, Leone said. 

This may have been because students felt lonely while quarantining, leading them to want to reconnect with others, Seiss said. 

“People are in their homes by themselves, and they’re maybe thinking about past relationships or things that they didn’t want to end, and then they try to reach out and they try to communicate,” Seiss said. “The only way that they can do it in a pandemic is virtually or via social media and that can become harassing.”

Throughout 2021, crime rates have remained lower than in pre-pandemic years, and Campus Safety Services plans to continue its current policies and practices to keep rates low, Leone said. 

“We’re still seeing a downward trend of any type of issue in buildings, so I think continuing the way we’re doing business will continue that trend,” Leone said.

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