This March saw record-breaking increases in certain types of crime, according to Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush .
A total of 71 property crimes were committed this March, compared to 44 property crimes in March 2013 — an increase of 61 percent. While there were no robberies in March 2013, four were committed in March 2014, and total crime rose from 57 to 84 incidents compared to last March.
“We wish we had a better story to tell you,” Rush said.
In February, there were only 45 property crimes compared to the 71 in March, and the total number of property crimes committed so far this calendar year is 179 compared to 148 for the last calendar year from January to March.
Rush attributed much of the significant rise in property crimes to the increase in burglaries, which rose from two in March 2013 to 16 in March 2014.
“We haven’t had big trends on burglary, period,” Rush said. “This is very unusual.”
Nine of the month’s burglaries occurred in the Quad. College freshman and Penn basketball player Tony Bagtas was arrested for two of the Quad burglaries. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office did not press charges for one of the alleged incidents.
When asked why there was such a big increase in burglaries this month, Rush said that it’s hard to predict major changes. “Who thought that we’d ever see that many burglaries in the Quad?” Rush said.
Other burglaries included one at the Horizon House at 120 S 30th St., which resulted in the arrest of an ex-employee of the building and another in a student room in Du Bois College House. There was also a burglary against an affiliated individual in an off-campus house and another in the Restaurant School.
“What makes someone burglarize one dorm room over another? It’s the doors that are unlocked,” Rush said. “The easy fix is always to lock your door when you go to sleep at night and when you leave your room.”
In one of the burglaries, according to Rush, an undercover officer decided to surveil someone who looked like he was “casing” houses. When the officer saw him commit a burglary in an off-campus house, the officer arrested him.
Rush said that Division of Public Safety is “conducting very active investigations into the burglaries that occurred this month,” but she was unable to provide any information on the details of the investigation.
Rush also said that the rise in total property crimes is partly due to the increase in bike thefts, which rose from three thefts in March 2013 to 12 this March. The total number of bike thefts so far this calendar year is 25, up from seven up to this point in 2013.
“Bike theft is an ongoing issue,” Rush said. “It’s something we will be hitting hard next year.”
DPS will be working closely with Penn Cycle to encourage students to leave their bikes at home. By renting cheaply from Penn Cycle instead, Rush said, students can avoid their bikes getting stolen.
March saw other increases in crime as well. Retail thefts rose from nine to 13 thefts compared to March 2013, with six arrests made for the 13 thefts seen this year. Theft from buildings also rose from 22 in March 2013 to 28 this March.
Of the 28 thefts from buildings this March, 11 of the thefts occurred in University academic and administrative buildings, six in buildings that are part of the University health system, five in retail establishments and another six in buildings unaffiliated with the University.
However, not all types of crime this March increased. There were no thefts from motor vehicles this March, while there were four in March 2013. Rush attributed the decrease to the new “theft from auto task force,” a partnership between the Drexel University Police Department, the Penn Police Department and the Philadelphia Police. The task force was created when the police departments noticed an increase in thefts from vehicles at the end of this past winter break .
Each year, some types of crime tend to increase in March compared to February and January, according to Rush, including unattended theft. “[This is] when students are getting ready for exams and studying longer, and they leave their belongings out and they walk away from them,” she said.
Rush said another issue is spring weather and Spring Fling, which often leads to increases in alcohol-related activity. “We’re trying to keep students physically safe,” Rush said.
This Spring Fling, some officers will be paid overtime to educate partygoers and their neighbors about alcohol safety as part of a $25,000 grant that DPS received in the fall along with the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives.