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Reports detail campus crime

January 27, 2003|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Lock your car.

Tuck compact discs out of sight.

And never leave textbooks on the benches around campus - "just for a second" - while you stop in the restroom.

Safety warnings are only effective, though, if people listen, campus officials say, so there's bound to be crime.

A federal law requires schools of higher education to release data each year about crimes on or around campus during the previous three years.

The schools also must state their crime and security policies.

Statistics have to be detailed. Crimes ranging from murder to burglary must be broken into the following categories: on-campus, on-campus residence halls (if the school has any), noncampus and public property.

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Noncampus refers to off-campus property that a school uses, such as a fraternity house. Hagerstown Community College includes its Valley Mall campus in that category.

Public property is property adjacent to a campus.

In addition, arrests, disciplinary actions and judicial referrals are divided into violations of liquor, drug or weapon laws.

None of this was required until 19-year-old Jeanne Ann Clery was tortured, raped, sodomized and murdered in her dormitory room at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., on April 5, 1986. Her killer got into her room that morning through three doors that should have been locked but were propped open, Clery's parents, Howard and Connie, have said.

After learning of previous violence and propped doors, the Clerys threw themselves into a new cause: shining light on campus crime. The result was the Campus Security Act, which Congress enacted in 1990 and renamed after Jeanne Clery in 1998.

"The purpose is to provide consumer information to students and families, so they can have as much information as possible," said Jane Glickman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education, which enforces the act.

Reporting improves

Since the inception of the act, crime reporting has improved, but some schools still have trouble compiling data, said Howard Clery III, Jeanne Clery's brother.

Howard Clery III is executive director and treasurer of Campus Security Inc., a nonprofit group in King of Prussia, Pa., his parents set up to monitor crime reporting.

Clery said some of the problems include putting crimes in the right categories; remembering the "hierarchy rule" for classifying crimes by the most serious act; and gathering nonpolice reports from resident assistants, judicial bodies and health centers.

"Sexual assaults are rarely reported to the police," he said.

Clery said the Department of Education has visited campuses more than 500 times to review crime reporting and no school has passed.

Only one school has been fined. In October 2000, The Franciscan University in Clinton, Iowa - known at the time as Mount St. Clare College - was fined $15,000, which was negotiated down from the maximum fine of $25,000.

Larry Libberton, the university's director of communications, did not know the specifics of the case last week. Clery said the university refused to concede its crime reporting flaws to the Department of Education.

"Our main goal is not to fine schools," Glickman said. "Our main goal is to help get the information out there."

Schools' data is not double-checked.

"It's self-reported," Glickman said. "We're not a police force."

Campus Security hopes to get federal funding to publish a crime reporting guide. Clery said it will cost between $500,000 and $750,000 to provide copies of the guide to every school. If funding isn't available, Campus Security may sell the books to recover the expenses.

"We feel it needs to be available," Clery said.

Three years of data

Schools are required to forward three years' worth of crime data to the Department of Education by Oct. 1 of each year and to disseminate the data to the students, faculty and public.

Local schools use a variety of measures, such as Web sites, student media, brochures for perspective students, inserts in employees' payroll envelopes and postcards sent to enrolled students.

All data is posted at a Web site run by the U.S. Department of Education. There, anyone can learn, for example, that Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W.Va., had 30 burglaries on campus in 2000. Or that 311 people at Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pa., were faced disciplinary charges in 1999 for liquor law violations on campus.

"Shippensburg has always been upfront on posting information," said Herb Bowers, the director of public safety. "Our monthly stats were always done anyway. It's something that should be done. ... I'd rather not hide it."

Bowers said that as a member of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, he collaborated with the Clery family when the act was established, so he was familiar with it right away.

Oscar Lovering, security supervisor at Frederick (Md.) Community College, said differing definitions of aggravated assault and robbery have created confusion. But it's not a big problem at the college, which has little crime.

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