REXBURG, Idaho Reports of crime on the Brigham Young University-Idaho campus are dramatically decreasing, despite an increasing enrollment, police say.
Capt. Garth Gunderson of the Rexburg Police University Division said the number of reported crimes is less than half the number reported 10 years ago.
One reason is more mature students on campus, including married students, who make up about 25 percent of the student population and who stick around when others go on Christmas and spring breaks, Gunderson told the Standard Journal in a story published Saturday.
In 1998, 127 cases and a total of 103 criminal charges were filed. Last year, the police report shows 54 cases and 28 criminal charges filed.
The decrease in crime has occurred despite the university increasing its student population from about 9,000 a year to more than 20,000.
"Typically when you get an increase like this, you would also see crimes rise, but we have a good trend going on, and we hope it continues this way," he said.
Forcible rape, aggravated assault, larceny, and vandalism all have decreased over the past decade, he said.
"People say that rape is a problem on campus, but in the past 10 years, we have had three cases, and in all of those the victim was acquainted with the rapist," Gunderson said. The last was reported in 2001.
The university has been embarrassed by news reports of three international students stealing from the university's bookstore, two brothers burglarizing valley recreational areas and a couple cases of child pornography and child abuse.
"But in reality the students are getting better and better and are becoming better citizens overall," Gunderson said.
Married students tend to stay in Rexburg during breaks, as do other students who work for the university, which makes apartment and dormitory complexes less inviting to thieves and burglars.
"That appearance of having people live there is a real turnoff to a thief or burglar," he said, adding that students have been asked to take a neighborhood watch approach.
There were no reports during the latest weeklong semester break, and during the three-week Christmas break there were no thefts or burglaries either, he said.
"Students are watching out for their neighbors, and it shows," he said.
But just because reports of crime are going down, students should still take safety precautions, Gunderson said.
"It's kind of a Catch-22 because students see that crime is really low, and they let their guard down," he said. "Low crime rates require work on both the law enforcement's side and the students'. It takes work to maintain that feeling of well-being and safety."