WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Education launched a new databasein October that it trumpeted as allowing students to access crime informationfrom more than 6,000 schools via the Internet. But the site has been plagued by problems since its unveiling. Severaluniversities that submitted their crime statistics for posting have filedcomplaints alleging that the data displayed is incorrect, according toa Chronicle of Higher Education report, and many people trying toaccess the site have been unable to because of problems with the Web server. Furthermore, 325 of the 6,700 colleges across the country failed tosubmit their crime statistics by the federally mandated deadline. As theReport went to press, about 180 schools still had not submittedtheir reports to the department, according to Dan Madzelan, the DOE officialresponsible for the data collection. To compile the first-of-its-kind database, the Education Departmentrequires colleges and universities that participate in federal studentaid programs to submit their annual campus crime statistics electronicallyto the DOE. Madzelan said any school that does not submit its campus crime statisticscould be suspended from student aid programs, allowed only limited participationin the programs or fined up to $25,000. But he added that the department’sfirst priority is to work with schools that are in noncompliance beforegoing to the enforcement stage. Department officials also said they are willing to work with any collegethat believes its crime statistics have been misreported to correct theproblem. Daniel Carter, vice president for the national watchdog organizationSecurityon Campus, called the new database a starting-off point for peopleresearching the safety of the nation’s schools.
“It shows that crime does happen on campus and that [parents and students]must take precautions,” Carter said. “It can also serve as a gauge betweentwo different schools.” Carter said he hopes that eventually all schools will report campuscrimes honestly and forthrightly. He said schools might feel pressure todo a better job of combating crime on campus if they know it will be afactor in prospective students’ college decisions.
“[Schools] will then more appropriately and adequately respond to crime,and in the end, crime will go down because of that,” Carter said. Since 1991, colleges and universities have been required by a federallaw, commonly known as the Clery Act, to keep statistics on the numbersof certain categories of crimes that occur on their campuses each yearand make those numbers publicly available.
The DOE’s crime statistics database is available online at: http://www.ope.ed.gov/security