Alcohol still plays big role in crimes

CHAMPAIGN – Alcohol continues to be a major factor in assaults and batteries in the University of Illinois area.

Data compiled by UI police show there were 142 aggravated assaults and batteries between Sept. 1, 2004, and Aug. 31, 2005. That's up 28 percent from 111 such crimes in 2003-2004.

In the most recent period, alcohol was a factor for 73 of the victims and 98 of the suspects. That's consistent with past years, according to Assistant UI Police Chief Krystal Fitzpatrick.

"Each year, we are trying to educate new people about drinking responsibly," Fitzpatrick said. "Personal responsibility has a lot to do with personal safety."

Good safety practices include walking in groups at night and staying away from isolated, poorly lit areas, she said.

Being aware of surroundings is a key way to avoid trouble, according to Fitzpatrick. Behaviors that make people easier targets for criminals include consuming too much alcohol or wearing headphones that prevent hearing someone approach.

"Criminals are going to pick the people that they think will make the easiest victims, regardless of their sex," Fitzpatrick said.

People can also reduce their risks of becoming a victim of crimes by riding the bus or using Safe Rides – a night service through the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District.

Data on aggravated assaults and batteries, rapes, robberies, homicides and other sex crimes, such as "peeping Tom" or indecent exposure, have been compiled and reported since 1995. The statistics come from UI, Champaign and Urbana police reports.

The data cover such crimes in the area from University Avenue to Windsor Road and from Race Street in Urbana to the railroad tracks just east of Neil Street in Champaign.

The largest concentration of such crimes are in the northwest quadrant, roughly bounded by University Avenue on the north, Gregory Drive on the south, Wright Street on the east and the railroad tracks on the west.

One reason for the concentration in that area might be the environment, which tends to be a little darker and more isolated, according to Fitzpatrick. The area is also a mixed residential area with both students and nonstudents, she said.

"People don't know who belongs and who doesn't," she said.

Aggravated assaults and battery incidents are clustered along Daniel Street, along Green Street, along John Street and down First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth streets.

Many of the robberies occur in the Champaign area adjacent to campus, with most between Clark and Healey streets and between Third and Wright streets.

For the year between Sept. 1, 2004, and Aug. 31, 2005, there were 53 robberies reported – up slightly from 49 the same period a year earlier and up from 37 two years earlier.

Late night and early morning hours on weekends tend to be the peak periods for such crimes, according to the UI data. A majority of the aggravated assaults and batteries occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays.

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