Night crime in St. George low, still present

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St. George is one of the safest areas in the state of Utah, and Dixie State College’s campus is even safer.

However, even though the likelihood of victimization is low, students should still be aware that crimes happen in southern Utah, and they can happen to anyone.

According to a crime rate comparison of southern Utah against the national median, about one in 1,100 people have the chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime in St. George. However, the highest crime rate in St. George is specifically for property crimes. A person has about a one in 45 chance of being the victim of a property crime.

Property crimes are defined by the Utah Department of Public Safety as “the unlawful taking, carrying, leading or riding away of property from the possession, or constructive possession, of another person.”

Officers with the St. George Police Department agree with the statistics: The southern Utah area is generally a safe place to be—even after dark.

Captain James Van Fleet said DSC’s campus has one of the lowest crime rates in the city.

“For the most part, whether they’re from the area or out of the area, [students] are pretty aware of the things that go on on campus,” he said. “And that’s why [DSC] has a very minimal amount of crime.”

Van Fleet said Campus Security is efficient at DSC, but a lot of the credit for the school’s safety can be given to the students themselves.

He said students should always report suspicious activity, even if it could be nothing. He advised people to keep an eye out for things happening that aren’t usual.

“We ask all our citizens if something doesn’t look right, or if something looks out of place, to call us,” Van Fleet said. “We’d rather go out and check it and have it be nothing [than have it go] unreported and be a crime.”

Van Fleet said there are crimes against people and crimes against property, and darkness usually promotes property crimes.

He said cars are a huge target for thieves, and an unattended and unlocked car that’s parked in an obscure lot will be more likely to be burglarized than one sitting directly under a streetlamp.

He said leaving anything on the seats of a car, even if it looks like it may be worth nothing, is an open invitation for a burglar. He said some burglars will break car windows if they think there’s something of value on the seats.

Van Fleet also advised students to shut their home curtains and leave an outside light on whenever they’re not home. If a burglar sees valuable objects inside a window and realize the residence is empty, then the burglar might take a chance and break in.

While property crimes are more prevalent, Van Fleet said crimes against people will always take precedence.

“Property can always be replaced,” he said. “People can’t.”

He advised students to travel in groups after dark and stay in well-lit areas. He said if people must travel alone at night, then they should travel where people can see or hear them easily if they need help.

Donovan Millet, a freshman general education major from St. George, said when he ventures out for nighttime activities like camping and shooting, he’s never too fearful of being a victim.

However, he did say there are areas of St. George that can get questionable when the sun goes down.

“It really depends on where you’re at,” he said. “I tend to feel pretty safe around [the college]. Boulevard sometimes can get a little weird, and the same with Dixie Downs. Washington is kind of sketchy sometimes.”

He said the St. George Boulevard, Dixie Downs Road and Washington City are the places where the not-so-law-abiding citizens tend to hang out. But even though the nighttime population can come across as a bit seedy, Millet said usually the danger is just in his head. 

“Sometimes you kind of think when people are walking over, there might be a chance you can get mugged or something,” he said. “But that’s just kind of one of those things in the back of your mind. I’ve never gotten jumped or [anything like that].”

Van Fleet said that, although there are perceptions of certain areas being more dangerous than others, no single areas are particular hubs for drugs or crime.

“We don’t have specific drug or gang areas,” he said. “Unfortunately we make drug arrests uniformly across the city. Crimes are going to occur wherever there are people who are going to commit crimes.”

Dakota Shook, a general education major from St. George, also said the area around DSC was safe, and it doesn’t take much to keep it that way.

“Just use common sense,” he said.

To get perspective, sometimes the St. George nightlife needs to be compared to other cities in other states.

Ian Yarosz, a freshman biology major from Utica, N.Y., said St. George is tame in comparison to his hometown.

“Utica is the bath salt capital of the planet,” he said. “This one time I saw a girl run out of a bar butt naked yodeling. There was a news story on it a couple days later. She was actually on the bath salts.” 

Yarosz said he’s seen enough people using bath salts to know how they behave, and he hasn’t seen anything like that in St. George. In fact, the scariest thing to happen to him at night didn’t even involve humans.

“The weirdest thing (that’s happened to me) was I went on a midnight run a couple of nights ago, and there was this random dog wandering down the street,” he said. “That’s about it. There’s really nothing here.”

Reports on crime rates in Utah are still being compiled for 2011 but The Utah Department of Public Safety’s full report on 2010 shows the overall crime rate for the state dropped by 4.12 percent in one year. 

DSC’s Campus Security did not include its numbers in the official report, but the rest of Washington County’s police agencies reported that property crimes, specifically larceny, rank higher than any other crime by almost triple.

Drug offenses in St. George ranked third in the state behind West Valley and Salt Lake City. According to the UDPS report, more than 1,000 arrests in 2010 were “drug [and/or] narcotic offenses.” 

The drug offenses and any violent crimes are not listed as being related.

However, violent crimes still happen, and Millet said vigilance is key to staying safe.

“It really depends on the group of people you run around with,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re at, if you’ve got someone who’s going to go piss people off, people are going to react. If you don’t bring reproach upon yourself, then you should be fine.”