Increasing number of students report sexual assault, data show

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

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Reports of sexual assault increased from 2012 to 2013 at UC Berkeley, in line with a relatively upward trend of reporting over the last seven years.

Wednesday’s publication of UCPD’s annual security report showed an increase from 23 to 33 reports of forcible sexual assault. According to UCPD Lt. Eric Tejada, the most common crime is theft.

In the last seven years, the number of sexual assault incidents peaked at 45 in 2011 — a spike that Tejada said can be attributed to a case involving former Tang Center doctor Robert Kevess, who was initially charged with 19 counts of sex crimes against former patients. Many of those counts have since been dropped.

The report indicates that between 2012 and 2013, there was a slight increase in robbery reports and a slight decrease in burglary reports.

Last year, there was one murder on campus property — the first in more than five years. Alberto Santana-Silva, a 21-year-old man unaffiliated with UC Berkeley was shot at Grizzly Peak Boulevard and pronounced dead at the scene. The case has not been solved.

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In light of concerns expressed by sexual assault survivors regarding the reporting process to police, UCPD created the survivor resource specialist position to assist those in navigating the reporting process.

“We don’t want to see the numbers go up, but there’s been a lot of education that we’ve been participating in, in terms of helping survivors and people feel more comfortable to report because they become more aware of sexual assault,” Tejada said.

According to Elliott Currie, professor of law, criminology and society at UC Irvine who lives in Berkeley, sexual assault is substantially underreported because survivors do not trust law enforcement, want to get involved with police or start the process of getting others involved.

“All of this kind of data understates and underestimates the kind of crime that goes on,” Currie said. “We’re going to have to be more creative in how to change the culture that facilitates that kind of crime.”

ASUC Senator Madison Gordon said while the report is thorough, UCPD could improve in recording the race and gender data of people they are stopping to better identify any trends or possible cases of racial profiling. Gordon suggested including more student voices in regular police training sessions.

“Many students don’t feel safe around UCPD, especially those of underrepresented backgrounds,” Gordon said. “Engaging those students in that training would be beneficial.”

UC Berkeley is legally obligated to report to the federal government all crimes committed within a certain radius referred to as “The Box,” whose jurisdiction is split between UCPD and Berkeley Police Department. This area is bordered by Virginia Street on the north, Shattuck Avenue on the west, Dwight Way on the south and extends past Gayley Road into the hills on the east.

UCPD publishes the report annually in compliance with the Clery Act, a federal law that mandates all colleges and universities receiving federal financial aid to disclose campus crime data.

“The university is basically kind of like a big city,” Tejada said. “One of the things we pride ourselves on is being very mindful of the needs of the campus community, students, faculty and staff.”

Jane Nho covers crime and courts. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @JaneNho.