Theft-related crimes made up one in every four crimes reported on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s daily crime log in the past three years.
The crime log is a public record of each crime reported around the university’s campus, including from nearby police agencies and off-campus areas. These records include the case number of the crime, when the crime occurred and was reported, where it happened, its description and the disposition or outcome.
The university is required to provide such records to the public under the federal Clery Act. This act requires that universities collect and report these crime records and statistics to people who need to access them. The crime log is only one part of what the Clery Act covers, as the police and campus security authorities are required by law to disclose crimes that occur not just on campus, but any areas bordering campus, or in any buildings off-campus that are still owned or leased by the university.
Patrick Wade, the senior director of strategic communications in the university’s Division of Public Safety, is involved with the disclosure of daily crime to the public. In Wade’s experience, crime report trends like these fluctuate, and although there’s no concrete solution to reducing theft occurrences, he still takes a positive outlook from these increases.
“That’s a good thing, in the sense that we’re actually hearing about crime that occurs instead of someone having a bike or a cell phone stolen and not reporting it,” Wade said. “We’re trying to be more proactive as well.”
Due to these guidelines in the act, the reporting that the police department does is quite extensive. CU-CitizenAccess has obtained daily crime log records beginning in early Aug. 2020 and ending in late September this year via a Freedom of Information Act request.
In just over three years and two months, there were a total of 7,328 crimes reported.
Theft is by far the most common crime reported — thefts of $500 or less are the most frequently reported with 638 cases, while thefts over $500 are less than half as frequent with 268 cases. Some incidents are simply logged as “theft” and lack clarification.
Many buildings on- and off-campus had at least one occurrence of theft, but there were a few well-known locations on campus that rose above the rest. The Illini Union and Illini Union Bookstore were the most common locations for theft with 24 and 23 incidents respectively, while the Activities and Recreation Center was right behind them with 22 incidents.
At least 73 arrests resulted from these reports of theft. Nine were from the Illini Union Bookstore.
Motor vehicle theft is another one of the top crimes reported at 191 cases, with 34 of them occurring on Green Street, or about 18%. Other forms of theft in the log included theft of lost or mislaid property with 78 incidents, retail theft with 72 and theft of motor vehicle parts and access with 71.
In total, this nearly 38-month period consisted of 1,820 reports of theft on the log — almost 25% of every crime reported.
An average of 381 crimes were reported every 60 days during this period. However, in the 60-day period ending on Oct. 4, this average was almost doubled, totaling 742 reports. Out of these 742 reported crimes, 211 of them are types of theft, about 28%.
Wade said he believes some increase in reported crime is due to the pandemic being over, but he attributes most of this increase to the University of Illinois Police Department’s expansion of its jurisdiction. It entered an agreement with Champaign, where the department would begin serving the off-campus area of campustown that Champaign’s force normally covered.
“That’s where a lot of criminal activity occurs,” Wade said. “That increased our reports quite a bit — not because more crime was occurring, but now because our officers were responding in that area where we weren’t responding to crimes before.”
Underage drinking another top reported crime
Another interesting contrast between the two periods is the crimes related to underage drinking. In the 38-month period from 2020 to 2023, 718 underage drinking-related crimes were reported, which averaged out to 37 reports every 60 days. However, in the most recent 60-day period ending on Oct. 4, there have been 96 reports.
Wade once again credits this increase to the change in jurisdiction.
“The real activity is happening in that area that was previously served by the Champaign Police Department, and now that’s our responsibility,” Wade said. “We’re going out there more, and we’re going into bars.”
Of the 96 reports of underage drinking in the log, only 31 of them come from the popular campus bars KAMS, The Red Lion and Joe’s Brewery. The latter bar led the three with 16 reports, accounting for 16.7% of all cases in the 60-day period.
Wade said 96 reports per 60 days is “barely anything” for a campus this large, and if going out every night to find underage drinkers was something officers wanted to do, they’d be out all night.
Instead, Wade said they’re looking for other behaviors associated with underage drinking, such as fights, public urination or students interrupting traffic by walking out into the streets.
“We’re not just trying to get people who are just underage drinking, we’re trying to get people who are underage drinking and engaging in these other unsafe behaviors,” he said.