How the Pandemic Has Affected On-Campus Crime at FIU

Image screenshot obtained from Unsplash

Elise Gregg/Staff Writer

2020 has been an unusual year in many ways because of COVID-19. Most of its impact has been negative — but it has also led to a decrease in crime at FIU. 

The most recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics stated that as of 2017, there were over 28,000 reported crimes on college campuses. The majority of these crimes were burglaries, followed by forcible sex offenses and theft of motor vehicles. 

FIU reported crime in 2019 compared with 2020 Graphic by Elise Gregg

According to FIU’s Police Department, the most common crime at FIU is theft. However, theft, along with most other crimes, has decreased drastically due to COVID-19. 

Since 2015, crime has been steadily dropping at FIU, from 726 crime reports from the Modesto Maidique and Biscayne Bay campuses in 2015 to 372 in 2019, with an average of around 544 cases obtained from the university’s crime records. These cases have been annually reported for the last five years.

Percentage of crimes reported at the different campuses at FIU Graphic by Elise Gregg

Captain Delrish Moss of FIUPD said that in looking at crime statistics, it’s important to look at numbers per person, especially in comparing FIU to other colleges. 

With a student body of around 54,000, data from FIU’s crime logs suggests that FIU has had roughly one report of criminal activity for every 99 students from 2015 to 2019. These numbers were calculated from the four year average of crime reported at FIU, in accordance with the student body population.

In contrast, 2020’s numbers look very different from previous years’. 

There have only been 195 reports for 2020, including both MMC and BBC, as well as reports from other campuses and off-campus. This means that for about every 277 students, there has been one report of criminal activity. 

Moss explained that criminal activity has declined with FIU’s campus population, with numbers drastically going down after March, when FIU closed on-campus operations and went fully remote.

“The lion’s share of things that happen here is theft,” Moss said, “And a lot of that has to do with some things being left unattended and also some people taking advantage of moments of opportunity.”

With fewer people, there have been fewer opportunities for crime to occur.

“The campus…has been a lot less populated than it normally is,” said Moss. “That has also reduced the amount of things that have occurred on campus.”

Although crime has gone down in numbers, it’s stayed about the same in terms of what crimes actually look like. 

According to FIU crime logs, most crime takes place at MMC, with nearly 90% occurring there in 2020. 8% of crime took place at BBC, with 5% occurring off-campus or at other campuses (Engineering and I-75).

Theft makes up nearly 40% of all crime at FIU and is one of the most common crimes to happen at FIU. 

According to Moss, most theft occurs when students leave their belongings where they can be easily snatched up: bikes, laptops, and purses are common targets for thieves. 

“Make sure that you pay attention to your items, especially when you leave them in a common area where someone can get to them,” Moss said, adding that students who leave items unattended in these areas are at a much higher risk for having their belongings stolen. 

Most crimes involve students as well: over half of criminal activity at FIU involved students as victims, suspects, perpetrators, or witnesses in crime in 2020. 

However, while crime has gone down on campus, students should still be aware of cybercrime.

Aside from an initial increase of cybersecurity threats, FIU has not experienced a great deal of cybercrime. However, there have been instances of fraudulent scams taking place on the internet and over social media.

“People are using either naivete or the opportunity to take advantage of people who click on some of these links…so that they can get into their personal information and get into their accounts,” Moss said.  

While students should be aware of online scams, Moss added that cybercrime has been going down, even during the pandemic. 

“I think it’s gone down since the pandemic, but a lot of it…is targeted around…people starting to receive their income tax information, because….that’s when people have money,” said Moss.

While safety and crime have changed over the past eight months, Moss said crime will likely go back to what it was as FIU repopulates its campuses, and that the pandemic will probably not affect future crime. 

“If we were looking in the future…this year is obviously going to be an anomalous year because this year was like no other,” Moss said.

When students return to FIU, Moss predicts that crime will increase with opportunities for crime to occur.

“In all crime, people are looking for [an] opportunity to do it,” Moss said. 

Still, there are resources and tools to deal with crime, as well as prevent it.

“We’re lucky here because we’ve got cameras just about everywhere so it makes it easier for us to solve,” Moss said, “but there’s nothing like a good ounce of prevention.” 

Students can also visit the University Police Department website for more information on crime at FIU, as well as the services the department offers. 

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