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By Kathleen Baty, The Safety Chick
Over the next few months millions of High School Seniors will be deciding where they will go to College. There are many factors to consider when choosing a school, and one of them is the safety of the campus. It is very important to take a look at the crime statistics on the campus you are considering. Did you know that according to the US Department of Justice, out of over seven million College Students, an average of five hundred and twenty six thousand experience violent crimes such as robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and rape? Which means approximately one in thirteen of you will be become a victim! OK—so now I think you get the point. Enough with the lecture--let me explain why and how Crime Statistics can help you stay safe.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE: (OR REALLY BRAVE, STRONG PEOPLE)
Before 1990, colleges and universities did not have to report campus crime or security policies, therefore a lot of campus crime went “un-noticed” by the public…until one strong and brave family stepped forward and took matters into their own hands.
Connie and Howard Clery are the parents of Jeanne Clery. Jeanne was a young and vibrant Coed at Lehigh University who was robbed, raped and murdered while she was sleeping in her dorm room. The attacker was a fellow student whom she did not know. The doors to Jeanne’s dorm were propped open by students living in the dorm. What was particularly troubling about this incident is that Lehigh University was already aware of Jeanne’s murderer…they knew that he had a “proclivity for anti-social behaviors and substance abuse problems”, yet there were no policy or procedures in place to report this disturbed student’s behavior or make other students aware of possible safety/security issues.
The Clery’s took this terrible tragedy and turned it into a positive mission to make all college campuses safer. They created a non-profit organization called Security on Campus and in 1990 championed the countries first federal law that requires colleges and universities to disclose timely and annual information about campus crime and security policies. It is called The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. Schools have to publish an annual report that contains three years worth of campus crime statistics and certain security policy statements including sexual assault and basic victims’ rights policies, the law enforcement authority of campus police and where student’s should go to report crime on campus.
The crime statistics schools must disclose are broken down into 7 major categories with several sub-categories:
1. Criminal Homicide
a. Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter
b. Negligent Manslaughter
2. Sex Offenses
a. Forcible Sex Offenses (includes rape)
b. Nonforcible Sex Offenses
4. Aggravated Assault
6. Motor Vehicle Theft
Schools are also required to report the following three types of incidents if they result in either an arrest or disciplinary referral:
1. Liquor Law Violations
2. Drug Law Violations
3. Illegal Weapons Possession
The statistics are also broken down geographically into “on campus”, “residential facilities for students on campus”, “noncampus buildings”, or “public property” such as streets or sidewalks. The schools also must report if any of the reported incidents involving bodily injury was a “hate crime”.
Colleges and Universities are also required to provide “timely warnings” which is somewhat subjective and only triggered if they feel a crime poses an ongoing “threat to students and employees”. BUT…they are also required to keep a separate and more extensive public crime log which keeps track of all incidents reported to the campus police or security department. The log covers all crimes not just those required in the annual report, meaning crimes like theft are included in the log which is helpful information that can provide a “heads up” to students living on or around the campus.
The log must be publically available during normal business hours which mean that in addition to students and employees, the general public such as parents or members of the local media have access to it.
There are many great websites to check out your college’s crime statistics or potential campuses you are interested in. Take the time to take a look, get familiar with what types of crimes are prevalent on your campus—it might surprise you. It is not always the large schools that have the most crime; it is not always the smaller campuses that are the safest. Knowledge is power and the key ingredient to staying safe.
BEST WEBSITES FOR CRIME STATISTICS ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES:
U.S. Department of Education: www.ed.gov
The Office of Post Secondary Campus Security Statistics: http://ope.ed.gov/security/
Security on Campus, Inc.: www.securityoncampus.org
The Federal Bureau of Investigation: www.fbi.gov