Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On the Trail of Crime on Campus

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On the Trail of Crime on Campus

Article excerpt

Although crime is not a problem on the small, suburban campus of Drew University, in Madison, N.J., I decided to investigate what crimes we students are informed of and which ones are left out. In a journalist's mind, there's always a conspiracy. I was shocked to find that in the past nine years no incidents of sexual assault had occurred. Not one.

"This can't possibly be true," I thought. But, according to the annual crime report from the university's Department of Public Safety, the number of sexual assaults was zero. Then the Chief of Public Safety let me in on a little secret: The statistics don't tell the whole story.

Immediately I thought the university was trying to put one over on students. I found, though, that you can't necessarily blame the institution for the way the data are put together. I learned that before 1990, colleges and universities were not legally required to make campus crime statistics public. When the Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act was passed, students, parents, and student-safety advocacy groups overcame a major hurdle in the campus safety struggle. The law says schools that receive federal funding must disclose information about campus safety policies and procedures, in addition to posting a yearly crime report - including crimes such as murder, sexual assault (forcible), robbery, assault, burglary, and motor- vehicle theft. In addition, arrests involving weapons possession, drug-abuse violations, and liquor-law violations must also reported. "They're finally looking out for our safety," I thought after learning about the law. But what about all those years after the act was passed? As it turns out, loopholes have allowed crimes such as sexual assault, particularly at Drew, to go unreported. Inherent flaws in the law are causing discrepancies in what the statistics say and what is really happening on campuses. …

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