Local colleges not consistent with crime statistics

By Campus Editor

Columbia’s annual crime Statistics & Fire Safety Report shows the college has a higher crime rate than neighboring institutions, but the data may be skewed because of a reporting technicality.

The report shows 15 on-campus forcible sexual offenses from 2010–2012, which is twice as many as other Loop campuses. DePaul and Robert Morris universities both reported zero forcible sexual offenses on their Loop campuses, while Roosevelt University reported seven during the same time period.

All colleges and universities are required to submit annual reports detailing campus crimes under the Jeanne Clery and the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which specifies that residence halls are to be considered on-campus, even if they’re shared by multiple universities or owned by third parties; however, not all Loop-area colleges appear to include dorm crimes in their on-campus security statistics.

Institutions that do not comply with the Clery Act are in violation of federal law and could face fines if noncompliance is determined.

Martha Meegan, director of Campus Safety & Security, said the Department of Education allows institutions to define what is considered on-campus and what may be classified as public property. 

Meegan said this rule may account for the difference in statistics among the colleges, particularly when looking at residence hall such as the University Center, 525 S. State St., a residence facility shared among Columbia, Roosevelt, Robert Morris and DePaul. Columbia, unlike the other three institutions, considers the University Center on-campus property, while Roosevelt only began including the UC as on-campus in 2012. DePaul reported crimes committed in the UC as non-campus, and Robert Morris did not report the UC as on-campus and reported only two  crimes in the facility over three years. 

“Some institutions do not define University Center as an on-campus facility. If they define it as non-campus, then they do not have to report the crimes that are going on [there],” Meegan said. “We consider all of our campus buildings to be on-campus.” 

According to Meegan, the statistics used to generate Columbia’s report come from the Chicago Police Department, the Office of Campus Safety & Security, Residence Life and its partners, such as the UC and 777 S. State St., which used to be 2 East 8th.


Robert Koverman, associate vice president of Campus Safety & Security, said this year’s crime remains consistent with last year’s rate. He said the college includes residence halls in its on-campus statistical reports for transparency’s sake.


“We would rather be over-reporting than under-reporting,” Koverman said. “You have a right as a student to know what is occurring in a reasonable proximity to you.”


Koverman said robbery is frequently reported on public property around campus. He said students walking around with phones and MP3 players are more likely to be targeted and should keep their valuables concealed.  


The disciplinary liquor violations referrals are the most prominent statistics on the report with both the highest number of occurrences and greatest increase.


Koverman said the number of liquor law violation referrals disturbs him most. According to the report, there were a total 440 disciplinary referrals for liquor law violations in 2012, a 22.9 percent increase from 2011. Koverman said alcohol may contribute to other campus crimes.


“Nearly every physical altercation we have between students always goes back to alcohol,” Koverman said.  


Koverman and Meegan said alcohol played a role in several of the forcible sexual offenses that occurred during the past several years. 


Within the last three years, there have been 14 reported forcible sexual offenses in on-campus student housing, according to Columbia’s safety report. A total of five reported forcible sexual offenses occurred in 2012, down from seven in 2011. 


Mary Oakes, director of Residence Life, declined to comment on the increase of liquor law disciplinary referrals and the instances of forcible sex offenses.


However, Oakes said Residence Life staff are required to complete extensive training to address such issues prior to the beginning of the semester. She said Residence Life partners with Safety & Security to disseminate the college’s rules.


Oakes said her department uses Campus Safety & Security and the Chicago Police Department as resources when dealing with crimes such as forcible sexual offenses.


Oakes said students who have committed forcible sexual offenses in the residence halls are dealt with on a case-by-case basis and may be banned from the hall if the situation merits such action.


“[Forcible sexual offenses] are something that we take seriously,” Oakes said. “First [and] foremost is the safety of the person that was violated. Both need to be taken into consideration in the context they are presented.”


According to Robert Morris’ security report, no crimes occurred on its campus property between 2010–2012, which conflicts with statistics presented in other college security reports. 


The statistics attributed to the UC in Robert Morris’ report conflict with UC statistics presented in other college security reports. According to Robert Morris’ report, no crimes were committed in the residence hall between 2010 and 2012, except for two reported burglaries in 2012. According to DePaul’s report, there were 77 disciplinary referrals for liquor violations. These instances were represented in Columbia’s numbers, but they weren’t acknowledged in Robert Morris’ report.  


A representative from Robert Morris’ Office of Safety and Security said no one in the office could answer questions regarding the

security report.  


According to Roosevelt’s annual Security and Fire Safety Report, the college did not previously count the UC in its on-campus statistics but updated its policy to include University Center statistics in 2012, along with data from its new 425 S. Wabash Ave. campus building.


Roosevelt’s statistics from 2010 and 2011 reflect its previous policy, which resulted in no reported offenses in student housing from that time period, whereas in 2011 DePaul reported 92 in statistics  of disciplinary liquor law violations in the UC.


As of press time, Roosevelt’s Campus Safety Office did not return a request for comment on how the college defined its campus boundaries and its new policy.    


DePaul’s report does not include the UC in its on-campus statistics but has a separate section for residence halls, which lists offenses and whether a DePaul student was involved. 


Koverman said Columbia’s report does not take a student’s home institution into account, which means crimes committed by students from other colleges may inflate Columbia’s report but are not necessarily reflected in their own college’s report.


“It could be any one of those institutions or any students,” Koverman said. “It’s not the individual [we count], it’s the act or incident that took place within what we perceive to be our reportable bounds. What matters is that it happened and that we tell you about it.”


Koverman and Meegan declined to comment on how other institutions classify campus boundaries.