The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Reported crime down 37.6 percent during pandemic


    In 2020, Sonoma State and surrounding communities saw a decrease in reported crime, likely related to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

     County-wide shelter-in-place orders, in tandem with university students practicing distance learning online, contributed to the decline of crime. Decreased numbers of students were on campus for most of 2020, with only 5.7 percent of the university’s 7,800 students residing in campus housing. In prior years, an estimated 37.5 percent of students lived on campus, a 31.8 percent decrease in student population due to COVID-19 restrictions.

    With students unable to return to campus to receive in-person instruction, many have either opted or been forced to live elsewhere in the state and attend classes from a distance. 

    As a consequence of less than 55 classes offered elements of in-person instruction in Fall 2020, campus housing populations have diminished. Sonoma State updated its online and hybrid instruction policies to comply with California State University guidelines that enforce the Accessible Technology Initiative, which requires that, “all CSU programs, services, and activities…be accessible to all students, staff, faculty, and the general public.”

    When asked how it felt to move back home to take classes, second-year student Shea Herrera said, “I feel like I’m paying so much to teach myself, and a lot of the professors don’t take into account the state of the world. I can’t wait to move back to campus!” 

    Although students are unhappy with online courses and are eager to return to in-person instruction, a less populous campus has improved safety. 

    Campus crime logs provided by Bernardete Rodrigues, administrative analyst for SSU Police Department, demonstrated the difference between logged crimes in 2019 and logged crimes in 2020. In the course of one year, campus crime fell by 37.6 percent, with over 100 fewer incidents logged compared to 2019.

    Campus Police Chief Nader Oweis, who began his employment with the SSU Police Department during the pandemic, acknowledged the decrease in campus crime. Oweis also noted that while crime has been down, health-related emergency services issues have increased.

    Sonoma County as a whole has experienced a drop in crime as well. Reported crimes have fallen 22 percent since 2011, according to data from the Press Democrat. This is in trend with state-wide crime statistics, which document a 12 percent decrease in crime over the last decade. However, at this time, it is unclear exactly what kind of overall effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on crime across California in the last year, as data is still being reported and varies from county to county.

    Some major California cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Diego, have been subject to increases in violent crime, such as assaults and homicides, since the beginning of the pandemic. However, these same cities are noting decreases in reported rapes and robberies, according to data from the Public Policy Institute of California. The Wall Street Journal also published statistics showing homicides in 2020 rose 24 percent while instances of robbery fell. 

    Data suggests that, with more people remaining at home, opportunities for widespread impulsive crime, such as unpremeditated theft or vandalism, diminished.  In contrast, people spending more time confined at home with friends or family members have been more likely to engage in domestic disputes, according to data from the New York Times that examined worldwide instances of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Before requesting specific crime logs, SSU has released little information regarding increases or decreases in specific types of crime during the pandemic. 

    Oweis, when asked about the department’s operation during this unprecedented period of time, stated, “Remote instruction has not changed our policies or philosophies. Our primary goal has always been to prevent harm to academic success, and make sure people can work and study so that normal operations continue.”

    As campus police have continued their duties as normal, it is safe to conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly had a role in the reduction of reported crime at SSU. 

    Regardless of the overall reason, it is undisputed that during the pandemic, SSU, with fewer individuals on campus, was safe from an increase in crime.

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