Why you should care about crime in Lawrence: KU and Lawrence crime patterns follow a pattern 

A data analysis of KU Public Safety’s 10-year report by Abdullah Al-Awhad and Rylie Oswald Al-Awhad

Photo | Abdullah Al-Awhad

When catalytic converters – a car part that converts harmful pollutants into safer compounds for the atmosphere – are stolen from cars on the University of Kansas campus, the same is often happening off campus, said KU Public Safety’s Detective Jack M. Campbell Jr. This is an example of how crime on campus can often mirror the crime occurring throughout Lawrence

“There’s some years we’ll see very few [thefts of catalytic converters],” Campbell said. “And some of that is related to overall community crime trends, even outside the university.”

Catalytic converters are a common part to steal from a vehicle. According to USA Today, the materials used in these converters, such as rhodium, palladium and platinum, are incredibly valuable. Replacement costs for catalytic converters range from $200 to $300.

KU Public Safety’s 10-year crime statistics report shows that thefts of vehicle parts often fluctuate. 2013 held the highest number of thefts, setting at eight, while 2020, a pandemic-ridden year, only saw one theft. Campus crime was at its highest in 2014 – 832 instances of crime – but car part thefts set at three.

How crime totals on campus have changed over the years

Line chart | Rylie Oswald Al-Awhad

How car part thefts on campus have changed over the years

Line chart | Rylie Oswald Al-Awhad

While there weren’t many car part thefts during the pandemic, the number is returning; in 2021, car part thefts increased to six, resuming a pre-pandemic state, according to the Public Safety report. The same cannot be said about the other crimes on campus.

“We haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels of overall crime since last year,” Campbell said. “In fact, in our total crime statistics in 10 years, we’re down almost 50%.”

Table | Rylie Oswald Al-Awhad

Types of Crime on Campus

While certain types of crimes, such as felonies, have declined significantly in 2020, by 60%, and persisted at the same levels after the pandemic, felony-misdemeanors have bounced back since the pandemic, according to the report.

A felony – motor vehicle theft or possession of drug equipment – can result in imprisonment between a year to life, according to Cornell University.

A felony-misdemeanor can be criminal damage or theft from a building. Felony-misdemeanors are crimes that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, according to the University of Minnesota.

A comparison of the crime categories from before, during and after the pandemic 

Bar chart | Rylie Oswald Al-Awhad

Table | Abdullah Al-Awhad

How Crime Has Changed

KU’s most common crimes have changed over time; in 2021, the most prevalent crimes were criminal damage, larceny or theft, theft from buildings and theft from motor vehicles, according to the report.

Criminal damage continues to be one of the most prevalent crimes on-campus, but possession of drugs and narcotics equipment has fallen from 50 to 15, according to the report. Drugs and narcotics violations have also fallen, from 58 to 17.

Line chart | Abdullah Al-Awhad

Campbell attributes the decline in crime on campus in the last year to people changing their lifestyles since COVID-19.

“I think the pandemic has caused some changes in how people approach life like going out,” Campbell said.

Lawrence crime was not as affected during the pandemic as KU, but the numbers still declined, according to annual Kansas Bureau of Investigation reports. In 2019, crime in Lawrence was at 3,044 and decreased to 2,995 during the pandemic. Crime went down even more in 2021 to 2,897.

Line chart | Abdullah Al-Awhad

Table | Rylie Oswald Al-Awhad

“Whatever happens outside the university, those trends will also affect us here,” Campbell said.

The data biography for this story can be found here.

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