Ask any University of Houston student about the main campus, and he or she will acknowledge that he finds it a little sketchy outside, especially at night. Not to do any Third Ward bashing. We know the Tre's steadily working its way to up-and-coming neighborhood status. We know you see those brand-new condos springing up.
"During the day I feel fairly safe," said junior Stacy Hensley, who commutes to campus. "But there is definitely a time -- 7 p.m. -- where I no longer feel safe, and I start to hit the panic button."
This week the university's student newspaper, which often tackles the issue of crime and campus life, again had a story that looked at the most recent crime stats from the University police, which are about two years old, and it looks like students who live off campus are either not locking their back doors or are being subjected to a little preferential treatment by crooks.
What's striking is that residence crime affecting university students, specifically burglary (theft is one of the most frequent crimes in the Tre), jumped over 500 percent from 2010 to 2012. We asked the university police to explain the reason for the jump and they told Hair Balls that much of it had to do with campus development and more bodies at the school, which can house about 8,000 students. "Unfortunately, more rooms and more people living on campus account for an increase in overall opportunities for crime, which is indicated in the 2012 annual crime report," Lt. Bret Collier of the University of Houston Police said in an email.
The university reported 87 burglaries of on-campus and off-campus residential facilities in 2012, a jump from the 74 reported in 2011. The previous year, 2010, a total of 14 burglaries were reported.
Collier explained what caused the spike in crime in the past three years:
"In 2011, UH opened Cougar Village, a 291,000-square-foot-facility that houses more than 1,100 students. We have since opened Cougar Village II, which houses 1,100 students, and Cougar Place, which has a capacity of 800. It is important to note that all of the new residence halls are suite-style housing. Each bedroom in a student housing facility suite is considered a separate dwelling. The Department of Education requires that we count the burglary of a single suite with four bedrooms and the common room as five burglaries rather than as a single incident. This can skew the statistics higher."
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That year the great winter break burglary occurred, with 30 incidents reported in one job.
The 2013 crime statistics aren't expected for a while, but we're going to assume that crime keeps going up at the university, even though Collier assured us the police force has roughly doubled.
A student we spoke to said the campus still feels largely unsafe after dark and that police aren't a visible presence.
If we were students, we're not sure how safe we'd feel, but in all likelihood the odds are in our favor, according to a statement the university police official left with us, "A U.S. resident has a 1 in 840 chance of being a victim of a robbery in a given year. On the UH campus, that chance is reduced to less than 1 in 5,500."