Crime rates across the University of California rose between 2008 and 2016. Each campus tells a different story — from UC Santa Barbara’s highest arrests in drunkenness to UC Los Angeles’ highest rates in Part I FBI crimes, the Nexus analyzed the data here.
The Nexus acquired crime records from the University of California Police Department (UCPD) Annual Report and Crime Statistics site. The UCPD recorded crime data for the years 2008-2016 across all UC campuses.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Handbook sets the definition of each crime and which crimes fall under Part I and Part II classifications. Part I crimes are considered to be more serious than Part II crimes. Part I crimes are categorized into violent crimes and property crimes. Violent crimes include homicide, manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, while property crimes include burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.
The UCPD also records “percent cleared” statistics, which is the percentage of crimes solved by the UCPD per type. This can be used to compare the success rates of each campus police department at identifying and arresting the responsible culprit. Since percentage cleared data was not reported in 2009, the article analyzes percentage cleared data from 2010-2016.
According to the “In this Report” section of the UCPD crime statistics website, if multiple crimes are committed at the same time, only the most serious crime would be reported. Nevertheless, arson was an exception — it is always reported since it “frequently occurs in conjunction with other crimes reported in the UCR system.”
Discrepancies and Context
The dataset has mathematical and classification errors, but they were not altered for the purposes of this article.
The UCR Handbook, last updated in 2004, classifies aggravated assaults as Part I crimes and simple assaults as Part II crimes. However, the “In this Report” page of the UCPD crime statistics site states that “all assaults (both simple and aggravated)” are Part I crimes. From 2008-2012, the UCPD classified both simple and aggravated assaults as Part I crimes, but from 2013 onward, the UCPD changed its classification of simple assault crimes to fall under Part II crimes rather than Part I crimes. As simple assaults make up a large part of the dataset, the trends displayed in the charts below may be potentially inaccurate as a result of this misclassification.
The universitywide totals provided by the UCPD for each year and each crime classification rarely match the sum of the individual totals of a particular crime committed at each campus. This pattern continues throughout most of the dataset. Accordingly, for the purposes of this article, the Nexus used only the individual totals to display and analyze the data.
Taking the population into account helps contextualize the information. For example, in the Stolen vs. Recovered Property bar chart, the Recovered Property Value includes raw numbers but also shows the proportional value of the data. Additionally, some schools have smaller counts of crime than other schools but also have smaller populations. For example, UC Berkeley and UC Los Angeles (UCLA) annually have more arrests than other UC campuses but also have larger campus populations.
The population of each UC campus generally increased every year. UC Berkeley and UCLA had the highest population out of all UC campuses, while UC Merced and UC San Francisco had the lowest. While crimes committed by faculty or to faculty were also included in the crime counts, the majority of people arrested for crimes committed by the UC police departments were people not affiliated with a university, followed by students. Having more or less faculty was not associated with a higher or lower crime count.
Some population totals were present on the UCPD reports but not all were cited each year. In order to have a standardized metric to analyze the effect of population on crime totals, the Nexus used student population data from the UC Information Center. The totals are similar to the reported population data in each police statistic report.
UCPD provides a disclaimer stating that assessments of the crime data can only be valid if they consider the unique conditions and factors that impact each campus police departments’ jurisdictions.
“The reader is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual reporting units from cities, metropolitan areas or universities solely on the basis of their population coverage or student enrollment,” the disclaimer reads.
“We encourage the readers of the Annual Security & Fire Safety Report to use the information provided in this document as a guide for safe practices on and off campus,” Public Information Officer Sergeant Dan Wilson said in an email statement to the Nexus
Across all campuses in 2016, about 9.85% of arrests were in Part I and 71.36% in Part II. UC Berkeley follows a similar pattern, with 9.92% in Part I and 73.2% in Part II.
UCLA, however, has a significantly higher Part I percentage — 23.91% — but a smaller Part II percentage, 49.22%. While UC Berkeley has a total of 77 Part I arrests, UCLA had 154. For Part II arrests, UC Berkeley had 568 and UCLA had 317.
UCSB has the highest Part II arrests of all UC campuses, with 999 arrests (92.33%) and 39 Part I arrests (3.60%). There were 302 arrests for drunkenness, which was the largest category under Part II, followed by liquor laws (271 arrests) as second largest and disorderly conduct (106 arrests) as third. Considering that UCSB has a much smaller population than UCLA and UC Berkeley, both the percentage and raw numbers are significantly high data points.
Among most UC campuses, Part I crime totals decreased from 2008-2016. Five UC campuses had significant spikes in Part I crimes committed in 2012 before a steep drop-off occurred in 2013. Either UC Berkeley or UCLA, the two campuses with the highest population totals, usually had the most Part I crimes committed in a given year; UC Merced, which had one of the lowest populations, had the least.
The UC campuses experienced significant difficulty clearing Part I crimes. With the exception of UC Merced, all campus police departments were unable to clear more than 20% of Part I crimes in a given year. UC Merced and UCLA regularly had the highest clearance rate among UC campuses, while UC Davis usually had the lowest.
After reaching a high of 605 Part I crimes in 2009, UCSB’s Part I crime total usually decreased each year until 2016, slightly rising to 336 crimes. The data shows that a larger campus population generally corresponded with a greater amount of Part I crimes committed, and UCSB’s Part I crime totals fit that trend.
UCSB usually cleared a mid-to-high percentage of Part I crimes in a given year. Its 2016 percentage was 15%, a moderate rise from clearing 7% of Part I crimes in 2010.
Across most UC campuses, the difference in Part II crime totals in 2016 compared to 2008 stayed relatively small. However, many of the campuses experienced steep fluctuations in crime totals with low and high amounts ranging from approximately 300 to 1,000 crimes.
The percentage of Part II crimes cleared per year in each UC campus also wavered heavily over the years. Only UC Davis had a large increase in the percentage of Part II crimes cleared in 2016 compared to 2010, whereas UC Santa Cruz’s Part II crimes percentage cleared was significantly low, ranging between 16% and 27% from 2012-16.
After experiencing a decrease in Part II crimes committed, UCSB saw a massive increase in Part II crimes committed, with a high of 1,456 occurring in 2015. Despite ranking seventh out of the 10 UC campuses in population, UCSB yearly had the third-highest amount of Part II crimes behind UC Berkeley and UCLA.
However, UCSB consistently had a higher percentage of Part II crimes cleared than other UC campuses. Its high of 91% cleared in 2014 and low of 74% cleared in 2012 are the greatest high and low Part II percentage clearance values of any UC campus.
A larger amount of Part II crimes occurring at UCSB generally corresponded with a higher percentage cleared value. The data shows that the UCSB police consistently solve Part II crimes more than other campuses, despite the higher crime totals at UCSB.
From 2008-2016, UC campus police departments had significant trouble recovering stolen property value.
With the exception of UC Riverside and UC Merced, each campus failed to record a single year where the property value recovered by the UC police was at least half of the stolen property value. On eight occasions, despite the stolen property value being in the mid-to-high hundred thousands, the respective campus police departments recovered less than $10,000 in property value.
The value of the stolen property at UCSB first dropped below $200,000 in 2013, before dropping further to around $91,000 in 2014. By 2016, the stolen property value had risen to approximately $123,000. An average of $40,488 was recovered yearly at UCSB between 2008-2013, but an average of only $19,703 was recovered annually between 2014-16.
Compared to the other UC campuses, UCSB usually had a relatively mid-to-low stolen property value. The UCSB campus police typically recovered the greatest proportion of property value.
The population totals used to calculate police ratios and arrest rates across the UC campuses were the data given for individual campuses by the UC police department, which included full population totals (undergraduate, graduate, staff, and faculty) from 2012-2016.
There was little to no association between police ratio (officers per 1,000 people) and arrests per 1,000 people between 2012 and 2016 across the UC campuses.
UC campus police ratios scarcely changed over the years. UC San Francisco’s police ratio was an outlier with around two officers per 1,000 people each year but had a steadily high arrest rate. UC Davis consistently had a lower police ratio and arrest rate compared to other campuses. With the exception of UC San Francisco in 2014, UC Berkeley in 2015 and UCSB from 2014-16, the arrest rate for each UC campus remained below 20 arrests per 1,000 people each year.
Despite its relatively low population and in-the-middle police ratio, UCSB had an abnormally high arrest rate each year compared to most other UC campuses. From 2012-13, UCSB’s arrest rate per 1,000 people hovered at around 18, but from 2014-16 the arrest rate hovered between 30 to 45 arrests per 1,000 people.
According to Wilson, a possible cause of the relatively high arrest rate is that the UCSB police department assists the sheriff in policing Isla Vista. As such, the department records crimes that occur both on campus and off campus in Isla Vista.
“If Isla Vista is not included, the data for [UCSB] is in line with other campuses,” Wilson said.
Wilson also believes that the high arrest rate could be due to UCSB’s efforts to protect survivors.
“Another factor that could play a role in the data is that our campus also has robust programs in place to support survivors of interpersonal violence, including encouraging reporting which experts point out leads to higher crime numbers,” Wilson said. “We are grateful to have a community that is committed to these kinds of programs and efforts in support of our students.”
Overall, Part II crimes occurred more frequently than Part I crimes, and drunkenness was a major portion of Part II crimes occurring at UCSB. Part I crimes generally fell each year at UCSB, while Part II crimes usually increased annually. The UCSB police cleared Part II crimes and recovered stolen property value at a higher rate than most other campuses, but UC campuses as a whole struggled to recover stolen property. There was little to no association between police ratio and arrest rates among the campuses, and the UCSB police arrested a higher rate of people than the other campuses over the years.
“UCPD will continue to partner with our student and community leaders on innovative safety strategies and crime reduction programs,” Wilson said. “By collaborating with our community and sharing campus safety and security information, we aim to increase awareness and stimulate participation in this shared responsibility for maintaining a safe campus environment.”
A version of this article appeared on pg. 6 and pg. 7 of the Oct. 6, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.