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Reported crimes at OCC on decline

August 05, 2004

Marisa O'Neil

Campus crime rates have dropped for the third consecutive year, to

the lowest number in 12 years.

Reported crimes on campus dropped 18% in 2003-04 from 2002-03 and

nearly 50% compared to the 1992-93 school year, according to a report

issued Monday by the Campus Public Safety Department. Increased

security and student awareness have pushed crime rates down on campus

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over the past few years, said Rich Pagel, OCC's vice president of

administrative services.

"They keep a good presence," Pagel said of campus safety workers.

"They do a fantastic job. They're out here 24/7, patrolling the

campus, and Costa Mesa Police Department is a big help, working

hand-in-hand with them."

The report, which tracks reported crimes from July 1 to June 30,

listed 91 crimes in 19 categories for 2003-04, down from 111 the

previous academic year and 173 in 2000-01.

Typical campus crimes, such as vehicle theft and petty thefts,

happened less frequently in 2003-04.

Vehicle thefts were down from 17 to 13, and petty theft of OCC

property and personal property was down from 33 to 21.

The number of burglaries at OCC and of personal property rose

slightly from 17 in 2002-03 to 21 in 2003-04. That was still down

from 44 in 2000-01.

"Traditionally, over the last 20 years, they've had a problem with

vehicle burglaries," Costa Mesa Police Sgt. Gary McErlain said.

"That's common with any large parking lot -- at an apartment complex,

shopping center, gym, anywhere people can see you leave your car and

know you will not come back for several hours."

In addition to campus safety officers, students working as campus

safety assistants patrol the parking lots, Pagel said. Costa Mesa

Police send car and bike patrols and additional special enforcement

units when authorities see a spike in reported crimes, such as a

spate of vehicle burglaries, McErlain said.

OCC student Danielle Garner, 22, said she feels much safer than

she did at her previous college, Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut,

where she said a female student was raped. Garner transferred to OCC

shortly after that.

"I don't worry," she said. "I like it here. I used to live [across

the street], and when class got out at night I'd walk alone and

didn't have any problems."

McErlain cautioned that people should be aware of their

surroundings when walking through campus and parking lots. Earlier

this year, a man, who was not a student, grabbed a female student on

campus and pressed himself against her, college spokesman Jim Carnett

said. That man was arrested, and the incident was the only one listed

as a sexual assault last year.

* MARISA O'NEIL covers public safety and courts. She may be

reached at (949) 574-4268 or by e-mail at marisa.oneil@latimes.com.

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