Bee stings UC system with expose on campus crime reporting errors

CALIFORNIA — The Department of Education began a full-blown investigationof University of California System schools’ compliance with campus securityregulations in October after a Sacramento newspaper published a seriesof articles claiming the schools were not accurately reporting campus crimestatistics. The Sacramento Bee published several articles in September attackingthe way the nine UC schools reported campus crime and accusing them ofviolating the Clery Act, a federal law that requires schools to publishannual crime statistics gathered from a number of official university sources. The investigation into the UC campuses’ crime-reporting methods wasannounced Oct. 10 after the publication of The Bee’s articles andpressure from Securityon Campus, a national watchdog organization that helped enact the CleryAct. The articles reported that two-thirds of the UC schools omitted sexualassaults reported to university sources other than the police and failedto report crimes that happened off campus or were reported at medical centers.Also, The Bee claimed that some crimes were miscategorized or sobroadly labeled that certain crimes became nonexistent.

“Students are put at an unnecessary risk when information about campuscrime is kept from them in this manner because they are unable to makeinformed decisions about precautions that they may choose to take,” saidDaniel Carter, vice president of Security on Campus, in a complaint filedagainst UC Davis on Oct. 2. “This situation is especially serious becauseother schools in California and across the country will be closely watching.If this institution is permitted to exclude incidents based on the criteriathey have established, other schools will likely follow suit, thus weakeningthis critically important law.” UC Davis was the only campus that refuted The Bee’s series ofarticles. It requested a full retraction, claiming the campus compliedwith the Clery Act and that the paper published erroneous information andomitted other information. Bee editors said they stand by theirarticles. Michael Reese, spokesman for the UC System president’s office saidhe thinks the DOE’s investigation is a good idea because it will help clarifyany confusion about the way schools are supposed to report campus crime.But he claimed UC schools were being unnecessarily singled out becauseschools all over the U.S. have the same problems.

“This is not a UC-specific problem,” Reese said. “The SacramentoBee depicted it as a UC-specific problem. It is a nationwide problem.Campuses across the country are grappling with these very same issues,and hopefully some good will come out of it in that there will be somerecognition of the nationwide scope of this. [The Clery Act] is an evolving,very complex piece of legislation.” In an attempt to further combat the inability of the Education Departmentto keep track of colleges’ campus crime reporting methods, Security onCampus asked the DOE to establish a Clery Act compliance office. In anOct. 5 letter to U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., Howard and Connie Clery,co-founders of Security on Campus, explained the need for such an officeand criticized the DOE’s continued failure to enforce the law.

“A campus security compliance office must be established and fundedto educate the schools about their obligations, perform random audits,enforce the Act through fines, and collect annual crime statistics forpublic dissemination,” the Clerys said in the letter. Carter said he met with two of Specter’s aides Nov. 10 in an attemptto convince them that such an office is important and desperately neededto keep track of the way schools report campus crime.

“We envision an office that would provide technical assistance, receivecomplaints, sanction those schools in violation and collect crime statistics,”he said. Carter said Security on Campus will begin lobbying for the office assoon as the 107th Congress convenes in January.