University of Memphis reports low crime rate

Memphis has crime problems, no question. But Crime Tracker focuses on a garden spot of sorts in the heart of our city, a place as crime-free as you can find in urban America today. It's the University of Memphis.

A tiny jail cell sits tucked away at the U-of-M. But the campus clink rarely holds a prisoner. Bruce Harber, U-of-M Police Director said, "Public intoxication might be one of the reasons we'd have someone in there." The jail is usually empty because the U-of-M's crime rate now ranks lowest among metropolitan state university campuses in Tennessee.

The 12-hundred acre campus has more police presence than anyplace in town. "Which is surprising people that we do have 30 officers. We're as big as some other agencies in Shelby County." U-of-M police now report all campus crime on an incident log updated daily on the university website. The biggest capers listed since the log began July first include petty thefts: book bags disappearing and the like. These reports may ease concerns of parents.

Crime in greater Memphis is a recruitment issue for the university. Police Director Bruce Harber says from the University President on down, there's a commitment to campus safety. "We realize we've got a little added responsibility to the parents I think everybody feels that responsibility." The university recently added lighting and fences to parking lots on Southern, Central and Zach Curlin. All this helps students focus on academic fears.

Campus police make a big educational effort of their own around the university--by word of mouth and via the web, urging students, faculty and staff to be aware of their surroundings always and report anything suspicious. The low crime rate numbers show the strategy is working.