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Clery Act may distort crime data

President Berkman responds to student safety concerns

By Brian Mitchell
Feb,16 2012

In a recent email to students and during a recent meeting with students, Cleveland State President Ronald M. Berkman addressed campus crime using what appeared to be CSU’s reported Clery Act data to illustrate how crime on CSU’s main campus has statistically declined.

“…crime statistics have been declining steadily for the past decade,” Berkman said in an email to students. “Reported incidences have dropped nearly 50 percent since 2005. In 2011, there were only 20 crimes reported at CSU.”

Campus crime data collection and crime reporting are required by the Clery Act. The Clery Act is a federal law requiring all institutions of higher learning accepting federal funds to provide a yearly crime report to the Department of Education.

Institutions must submit data on crimes that fall in the following categories: murder, non-negligent homicide, negligent homicide, forcible sex offences, non-forcible sex offences, robbery, aggravated assault, drug and alcohol violations, illegal firearm possession, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson, and hate crimes.

The act includes guidelines that mandate when the location of a crime occurrence must be reported and as a corollary which crimes, based off occurring location, can be omitted from the yearly report.

“We report exactly what the Clery Act requires,” said David Buckingham, CSU police commander.

The majority of crime involving students appears to occur on public property in close proximity to CSU’s campus and may not be included in the yearly Clery Act reports. Of the nine crime alerts issued in 2011, five of the crimes generating alerts occurred on public property in close proximity to campus.

Additionally, crime data for CSU indicates a total of one robbery in 2011. However, in 2011 there were 11 robberies occurring on public property in the immediate geographic area of campus. According to CSU police records, students were the victims in five of the 11 robberies.

While the Clery Act data shows crime on CSU’s “campus” has declined, because of the way the Clery Act appears to define which crimes are reported and which crimes are omitted from the yearly report, the picture of crime near CSU may be distorted.

Most crimes occurring on public property near campus, or property not owned or controlled by the university do not have to be reported unless the public property is noted on the universities reporting map or is “adjacent to a facility owned or controlled by the institution, and that property or facility is used by the institution in direct support of, or in a way related to, its educational mission.”

Crimes occurring “on campus” must be included in the yearly report. The act defines campus as any building or property owned or controlled by a university within a “contiguous geographic area” and used by the institution in support of educational purposes to include residence halls.

The definition of campus also includes property within the same geographic area of the university that is owned by the university, but controlled by a third party. An example would be the food retailers in the Student Center.

Crimes occurring at “non-campus buildings or non-campus properties” associated with the university must be reported. A non-campus building or property is defined in the Clery Act as an area or structure owned or controlled by a university-recognized, student-led organization, and any structure or area owned by and maintained by the university that is not within close proximity to the university. An example would be off-campus housing owned by a university. This definition excludes satellite campuses.

In an effort to prevent crime on public property near campus CSU authorities and the Euclid Avenue Development Corporation are working together to create a safe environment.

“We have partnered with Trinity Cathedral and have made recommendations about safety that will benefit us all,” Buckingham said.

Additionally, CSU police are increasing their presence in and around campus by doubling the number of officers on duty between 2 and 10 p.m.

“Additional security forces have been assigned to patrol pathways to and from the South Garage next to the Wolstein Center and the Cole Center parking lot on East 30th Street between Euclid and Chester avenues,” Berkman said.

Berkman also stressed the crime alerts issued by CSU authorities have had the unintended effect of creating a perception of high crime on campus.

“We chose to make crime more clear despite the fact that this may have been initially unsettling,” Berkman said.
Crime alerts are required by the Clery Act. However, they are issued whenever there is a risk toward students as determined by CSU authorities and are not confined by location as the Clery Act yearly report appears to be.

While the safety alerts may have some students worried many see a benefit in being fully informed about crime in and around CSU.

“I believe CSU administration has acted overwhelmingly in the students’ interest in erring on the side of caution, reporting incidents on campus and private property via the safety alert system,” said Laura Krawczyk, deputy speaker for the Student Government Association. “The overall reaction I have heard from the student body is that they feel safer having a more complete knowledge of safety issues not just on campus but in the surrounding area as well.”

A historical record of most crimes reported to CSU police regardless of location is available on the CSU police website through the “report logs” link. The Clery Act data is available on the police website under the crime statistics link.