U.S. education department releases campus crime reporting handbook

WASHINGTON, D.C.The Handbook for Campus Crime Reporting, recently released by the U.S. Department of Education, should clear up any questions college and university officials have regarding their responsibilities under the Clery Act, one expert said.

“The Clery Act handbook for the first time puts guidance from more than a dozen different sources in one place, better enabling schools to have a clear picture of what their compliance obligations are,” said S. Daniel Carter, senior vice president of the watchdog group Security on Campus. “This should make actually doing what is required much easier.”

The Clery Act, which passed in 1990 and has been amended several times since then, requires all public and private colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to release a wealth of information about campus crime and safety including annual campus crime statistics and a campus security department crime log.

Although geared for university administrators and campus police, Clery Act handbook, which gained funding in February 2003, could be helpful for journalists covering police beats on college campuses.

“By understanding exactly what schools are required to report, journalists will also know what they are entitled to and when,” Carter said. “The handbook may also be a useful tool to take in to school officials to prove to them exactly what they are required to provide.”

The handbook explains the requirement of schools to keep crime logs, which must contain all crimes or allegations of crimes that are reported to campus police or security, including crimes that are not required to be reported in the school’s annual statistics.

The crime logs must be kept for seven years, and recent logs, those 60 days old or newer, must be available for review during normal business hours. Older logs must be made available within two business days of a request to see them.

The handbook also outlines what information must be kept in logs, such as the date and time a crime is reported, the date and time a crime occurred, a general location of reported crimes and any disposition of complaints.

The handbook also goes into detail about the release of annual security reports, which must be distributed to all students and employees by Oct. 1 each year. The handbook outlines specific examples of distribution and the requirements of each, including distribution by mail, e-mail and Web sites.

Schools are required by the Clery Act to report statistics on the following crimes: criminal homicide — including murder, non-negligent manslaughter and negligent manslaughter; sex offenses — including forcible and non-forcible offenses; robbery; aggravated assault; burglary; motor vehicle theft; and arson. The handbook provides further guidance as to in which category specific crimes should be reported.

The handbook, released July 15, will be provided to colleges and universities by the U.S. Department of Education. It also includes the following topics: timely warnings; how to count Clery Act crimes; disclosure requirements for policies, procedures and programs; special considerations regarding sex offenses and offenders; and submitting materials to the Department of Education.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) sponsored a provision allotting $750,000 to the development of the handbook in a February 2003 fiscal package.

–Sean Hill