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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Northridge

Crime Falls Sharply at CSUN Campus

November 29, 2000|ZANTO PEABODY

Changes within the campus police department at Cal State Northridge are credited for a 40% drop in reported crimes in 1999 compared with the previous year, department officials said Tuesday.

The number of campus police officers grew from 20 to 23 and the number of reported crimes fell from 465 in 1998 to 281 in 1999, a report released by university police Chief Ronald Seacrist showed.

Seacrist, who took command in April 1999, said having "more eyes and ears to report suspicious activity helps cut down crime around campus dramatically."

In addition to adding new patrol officers, university police took over management of campus housing security and its student escorts.

The department also hired an officer whose sole job is to teach crime recognition and prevention to students and faculty.

"We didn't reinvent the wheel in crime prevention," Seacrist said. "I just instituted programs that have worked on campuses all around the country."

The downturn in reported campus crime follows a sharp upswing in 1998, when a spate of car thefts hit the entire San Fernando Valley, including the 27,000-student campus.

Total reported crime climbed from 379 incidents in 1997 to 465 in 1998. Students reported 295 thefts in 1997, compared with 366 in 1998 and 202 in 1999.

Arrests for drug, liquor and weapons violations, however, saw significant increases during the two-year period. The number of drug arrests went from zero in 1998 to 25 a year later, and liquor violations jumped from zero to 17. Weapons arrests rose from four to seven.

"Crime is very cyclical, and there is zero tolerance by administration," Seacrist said. "So you may see a higher rate in crimes reported. We may be just catching crimes that had previously gone unreported."

Seacrist said he expects to see a rise in the number of thefts and other crimes within the next year because there will be more officers patrolling the campus, and thus more crimes should end up being reported.

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