Calif. law will require details of law enforcement

CALIFORNIA – A provision signed into law last summer could give California college students a better understanding of how their school handles criminal incidents and might result in greater access to details about those crimes.

The Kristin Smart Campus Safety Act of 1998 requires each of California’s post-secondary institutions, both public and private, to enter into written agreements with local law enforcement agencies that will designate whether the campus or local police agency has responsibility for the investigation of violent crimes occurring on campus and delineate the specific geographic boundaries of each agency’s operational responsibility. The written agreements must be made available to the public by July 1.

The legislation was named after Kristin Smart, a student at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo who disappeared in 1996. She was last seen returning from a party with another student, who eventually became the main suspect in the case. Friends and family members of Smart claimed that due to miscommunications between campus police and the local sheriff’s department, there was a lack of evidence to bring charges against the individual. Although campus police found troubling discrepancies in the suspect’s story when they questioned him after the Memorial Day weekend, they said they never came up with sufficient legal cause to search his dorm room. As a result, by the time the case was turned over to the local homicide detectives, the academic year was over and the suspect had cleared out his room for good.

Because this legislation will help inform students about who should be handling criminal investigations on campus, security advocates hope it will result in greater access to crime reports as well.