UC Irvine says change in reporting drove surge in aggravated assaults

Adding domestic assaults and attacks on hospital workers drove up aggravated assault reports, UC Irvine says

The number of serious assaults tracked by UC Irvine police more than quintupled last year, but campus officials say the spike can be attributed to altered reporting procedures and does not suggest a wave of violence at the university.

Twenty-eight aggravated assaults were reported in the UCI Police Department's jurisdiction during 2013, according to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report released this week. That compares with five in 2012 and two in 2011.

The FBI defines an aggravated assault as an attack or threat of attack likely to cause grave injury or death. Often, it involves a weapon.

UCI spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said two factors drove up the statistic last year: a new requirement for reporting domestic assaults and an emphasis on reporting attacks at UCI's off-campus hospital, which university police also patrol.

The federal Violence Against Women Act, as renewed in 2013, requires college campuses to include domestic violence in crime statistics they turned over to federal authorities each year, Lawhon said.

In addition, she said, there was a push in 2013 to report to UCI police any assault on staff at UCI Medical Center in Orange. Patients with mental or drug problems who attack hospital workers are lumped into the crime statistics that UCI police send to the FBI, Lawhon said.

Removing the domestic-violence numbers and assaults at the medical center would make the 2013 statistics look much more like 2012 and 2011, according to UCI.

"There has not been any kind of huge uptick in people assaulting each other on campus," Lawhon said.

However, campus officials could not immediately provide a breakdown of how many of the aggravated assaults occurred at the medical center or in domestic situations.

The only other University of California campuses that had significant increases in reports of aggravated assaults in 2013 were Berkeley — from 10 reports to 22 — and UCLA — from 27 to 40, according to the FBI report.

No other violent crimes that UCI reported — rapes, robberies and homicides — broke into double digits in the past three years.

jason.dobruck@latimes.com

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