Crime concerns hang over U. of Cincinnati campus

CINCINNATI (AP) — Overall crime numbers are down, but not the concerns for University of Cincinnati officials and students.

With an urban campus, Cincinnati has long been plagued by off-campus criminals targeting students and staff. The school is spending more on lights, cameras and off-duty patrols, has doubled capacity for a night ride service, and plans to hire at least 10 more university police officers. President Santa Ono has been speaking out and recently appealed to Hamilton County judges to crack down on predatory criminals targeting UC students.

Cincinnati and university police say overall crimes in the areas around campus have decreased by 25 percent over the past five years, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported ( ). However, burglaries increased last year over 2012.

UC officials aren't trumpeting a crime decrease because they know students who have been victimized don't feel relieved.

"People don't want to hear what the numbers are because if you're a number, you're not happy," said interim UC Police Chief Jeff Corcoran. "I don't blame them for that."

UC is building a database to help spot crime patterns, and college and city police are working together closely. They are encouraging students to report crimes quickly, to give them a chance to respond and start investigating before the trail goes cold.

Expensive smartphones and laptops help draw criminals to the areas around campus in search of something to steal and sell quickly.

"Those are high-commodity items right now," said Cincinnati police Capt. Paul Neudigate.

The school will start a training program this spring to help students learn to keep themselves away from threatening situations. Police want them to avoid areas where they are vulnerable, to travel in groups and to be aware of their surroundings.

"When it's dark, I'm not on my phone, I don't text, and I don't listen to music," said Morgan Cummins of St. Bernard, a fourth-year student.

"On campus, it's good," said Phillip Graham, a third-year student. "Off campus, it depends on how far you're going and where you live. I guess it's like any other college. The later it gets and the darker it gets, things get a little weird."