Despite campus crime rates remaining consistent in 2017 according to URPD, two criminal cases in particular received attention on and off campus.
“It’s similar to other years,” Beth Simonds, URPD's assistant chief of police, said. “There’s nothing that’s glaringly out of line.”
URPD allowed The Collegian to see the crime statistics for 2017 but requested exact numbers not be published, citing that current statistics remained tentative until the 2018 Annual Safety Report is published on Oct. 1, 2018.
Lt. Eric Beatty said the department still had ongoing investigations from 2017 that could change the dispositions of cases in the coming months.
Beatty explained that the Clery Act, a federal law which affects all colleges and universities receiving federal financial aid, requires URPD to publish its crime statistics every October. The current report contains statistics from 2014 to 2016.
He added that students wanting an estimate of annual crime could instead frequent URPD’s online crime log. The log provides information of all reported incidents in the last 60 days.
One case The Collegian received a tip about involved William Caughell, junior, who was the victim of motor vehicle theft in December 2017.
Caughell said he had found out about the theft the morning of Dec. 2, 2017, when URPD officers arrived at his University Forest Apartment and asked him if he had known his car had been in an accident.
“I was like, ‘You’re joking, right? My car is right there behind you,’" Caughell said. “And I looked, and the car was gone, so I was like, ‘Actually, no. I’m not. I wasn’t aware at all.’”
Caughell said he had been asleep at the time of the theft. He said that, according to what he had seen from security footage, four men had arrived in front of his apartment in their car around 2 a.m. on Dec. 2, 2017, had loitered, then drove away in his car.
“They literally pulled right in front of my apartment,” Caughell said, puzzled. “It was completely odd.”
He said Henrico police found his car near a residential area on the corner of Weyanoke and Severn roads. The car had been damaged and abandoned.
Beatty said Henrico police had notified URPD in the morning and asked that they do a welfare check on the registered owner, Caughell.
Caughell admitted that he may have left the car doors unlocked and he had kept a spare key in the car that night.
“It’s still my fault,” Caughell said. “They got in, were going through my car, and I guess they found the spare key I had hidden in there. And then they took off and then crashed the car."
URPD sent an email alert to the campus community on Dec. 6, 2017, stating the occurrence of several thefts from and of motor vehicles in past months. The email also provided students advice on property protection to reduce the risk of thefts.
The culprits stole auxiliary audio cables, power cords, clothes and his wallet from the car, Caughell said. Henrico police recovered the wallet in January.
The case is currently open, and is under investigation by Henrico police.
The second case made local news.
On Dec. 3, 2017, former senior Tomas A. Peña was arrested. URPD charged Peña with drunkenness, aggravated assault and fondling at 55 and 56 Gateway Village Apartments, according to the crime log.
Although the log did not provide Peña's identity, Simonds confirmed it and said it was now public information because Peña had been identified in his criminal court case.
An NBC12 story also identified Peña and reported he had been charged with assaulting a URPD officer, resisting arrest, public drunkenness and sexual battery.
Simonds explained that the discrepancies lay in differences of classification and terminology between Virginia state and federal law, the latter of which URPD uses in its crime log.
“Fondling and sexual battery are essentially the same thing,” Simonds said. “One is the federal term, fondling, and one is the state term, sexual battery.”
Public drunkenness, resisting arrest and sexual battery are misdemeanor charges, while the assault is a felony charge.
Peña awaits his impending court hearing later this February, according to his criminal court case information.
Beatty said two types of crimes that made up the bulk of incidents on campus continued to be vandalism and larceny, primarily of university property.
Lora Robins Court and Marsh Hall had the most vandalisms in 2017. This marks a change from last year, when Wood Hall and Marsh Hall were popular targets.
Patrick Benner, director of residence life and undergraduate student housing, said the change may be due to the first-year male student presence in Lora Robins Court this year.
“Our first-year male student populations have seen more vandalism than our first-year all-female areas," Benner said. “Now we have co-ed areas, so it’s impacting more communities probably.”
Benner added he did not mean to suggest that dorms becoming co-ed was the problem, citing what he saw as less crime in Wood Hall, another dorm that became co-ed this year.
“It’s just now we have first-year male students in other areas,” Benner said. “When you look at Wood Hall, a smaller area, I haven’t seen as much.”
Benner added that he saw more damage in first-year dorms than in upper-classmen dorms.
Caughell said it may be due to how some 18-year-old college freshmen tend to be.
“They’re on their own for the first time and probably feel like they can do whatever they want,” Caughell said. “For a freshman dorm, LoRo is really nice. I wouldn’t destroy it. I would hope that people grow out of it.”
Contact news writer Arrman Kyaw at firstname.lastname@example.org.