Magazine article ASEE Prism

Crime Stats Go Online

Magazine article ASEE Prism

Crime Stats Go Online

Article excerpt

In October, the federal government began publishing crime statistics from more than 6,000 universities and colleges for the first time, posting the data on the Internet. Now when prospective students and their parents begin the process of selecting a school, crime can be another factor in their equations.

But the stats, of course, are no guarantee. When Eric Franklin Plunkett, a freshman at Gallaudet University, a school of 1,700 for the deaf in Washington, D.C., was found bludgeoned to death in his dormitory room last September, it was only weeks after he waved goodbye to his mother and told her not to worry, that he would be fine. The school's crime record over the past three years would have underscored his confidence. The numbers indicate that Gallaudet is no hotbed of crime. Last year, there were four reported rapes, one robbery, 15 burglaries, four aggravated assaults, one car theft, and one reported case of arson.

Colleges have long been accused of playing down campus crime and underreporting events. Congress passed a law requiring better posting of crime stats in 1990-the so-- called Clery Act, named after Jeanne Clery, 19, a student who was raped and murdered in 1986 at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. Congress tightened the law in 1997, after determining that schools were still doing a poor job in making the numbers available and that many were ignoring the law. Now noncompliance can result in fines of $25,000.

A watchdog group set up by the Clery family, Security on Campus, wants the Department of Education to ensure the accuracy of the campus reports by random auditing. …

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