As part of our initiative called Curious Cornhuskers, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “Have there been trends in crime occurring on or around UNL’s campuses over the span of the last 5, 10, 15 or 20 years?”

This year, there has been a drop in overall reports because there has not been as many people on campus due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to John Backer, police operations captain for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department. In 2019, there were a total of 1,371 incident reports to UNLPD, and in 2020 as of Nov. 3 at 5:13 p.m. there are a total of 895 incident reports, according to the UNLPD’s Daily Crime & Fire log.

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In 2013, Backer said UNLPD officers started publicizing the use of their bait bike program, where locked bikes are placed around campus with GPS tracking devices so if they are taken, the person can be tracked.

“This year will be really odd for all crimes, but especially stolen bikes because so many were left abandoned at the end of the spring semester that it was difficult for us to know which ones were actually valued and being kept and those that were actually being discarded,” Backer said. “I think the thieves knew the same thing.”

In 2017, the bait bikes no longer were included with the stolen bike category, so the number of stolen bike reports decreased, according to Backer.

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In 2007, UNLPD officers started focusing more on behavior intervention when it came to their threat assessment program, where UNLPD officers identify, assess and manage the risks of targeted violence and potential perpetrators, according to Backer. This led to an increase in disturbances of the “other” category, not including domestic or wild party reports, because there are more officers that know how to report them, according to Backer.

As threat assessments have continued over the years, more cases were classified as disturbances because disturbances include a ide range of behavior, Backer said.

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Backer said sexual assault is a difficult crime to track because, from his perspective at the police department, sexual assaults are one of the most underreported crimes. 

Backer said he is not surprised to see an increase in sexual assault reports because there is better support in place for survivors and there is more encouragement to report sexual assaults. 

“I think you see the rise from 2013, 2014 and 2015 due to more encouragement towards reporting,” Backer said.

Also, sexual assaults may be reported to a UNL Center for Advocacy, Response and Education  advocate on campus or the Title IX office, and those organizations only report to the police if a minor was involved, according to Backer.

A law change in April 2018 allowed individuals 18 years and over a choice for the hospital to report the sexual assault to law enforcement or not, which can affect the number of sexual assaults reported, like the decrease in 2019, according to Backer. 

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One of the factors affecting the decrease of minor in possession of alcohol reports since 2015 is due to the Good Samaritan law, according to Backer. The Good Samaritan law encourages minors to call 911 if there is a medical emergency due to alcohol without fear of being cited for minor in possession of alcohol.

“The goal is to not be robotic in our actions,” Backer said. “We’re dealing with humans. We’re human. We’re dealing with students who are human. This is an educational environment. I think our practices should match that and match those factors.”

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Backer said possession of narcotics is another broad category because it covers anything from five grams of weed to heroin. Backer said he is not surprised by the steady increase from 2012 to 2016 because marijuana has become more prevalent on campus and more socially accepted.

Backer also said the number of complaints about marijuana decreased as marijuana has become more socially acceptable.